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THE FORTUNES OF 
PRIMITIVE TRIBES 




The Frowns of Tribal Fortune. 



THE F^T^JiES OF 
PRIMITIVE TRIBES 



D. N. MAJUMDAR, M.A., PH.D. (CANTAB.) 

Premchand Roychand Scholar, Fellow of the Royal Anthropologi- 
cal Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Fellow of the National 
Institute of Sciences, India. 



Published under the Direction of 

THE SUPERINTENDENT, PROVINGIA L CENSUS OPERATIONS, 

UNITED PROVINCES, 1941, FOR THE LUCKNOW UNIVERSITY 

by THE UNIVERSAL PUBLISHERS LTD., 

THE MALL, LUCKNOW, INDIA. 

1944 




FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1944. 



PRINTED IN INDIA 

AT THE PIONEER PRESS, LUCKNOW, 
BY B. N. CHOPRA AND PUBLISHED BY 
THE UNIVERSAL PUBLISHERS LID. 



CONTENTS 

Page. 

Introduction . . . . . . . . ix 

The Korwas . . . . . . . . 1 

The Tharus . . . . . . 57 

The Khasas .. . . . . 110 

The Criminal Tribes . . . . . . 185 

Tribal Economy And Social Vigilance . . . . 209 

References . . . . . . 229 

Index .. . . . . ..231 



(vi) 

ILLUSTRATIONS 

1 . A Group of Bhuiyas from Mirzapur. 

2. A Korwa house in Dudhi, Mirzapur. 

3. A Majhwar Elder from Dudhi. 

4. A Ghamar from Mirzapur. 

5. Korwa women dancing a marriage dance. 

6. A Bhil woman proud of her motherhood. 

7. A Korwa magician. 

8. Shouting to friends a Korwa youngman. 

9. A Majhwar woman from Dudhi coming to the weekly market. 

10. The Karma dance of the Korwas. 

11. A Ghero magician. 

12. 'It is feeding time/ a Korwa woman attending to her child. 

13. Merchants in Dudhi icsting their pack animals. 

14. A Korwa woman of Sarguja with her child. 

15. Korwa archers with theit arrows fixed to the tufts of their hair. 

16. Showing skill in archery. 

17. An Elderly Korwa. 

18. Sorceror and Diviner. 

19. A Majhwar woman in the weekly market at Dudhi. 

20. A Majhwar house in Dudhi. 

21. To the weekly market. 

22. Teaching the Aboriginal children. 

23. Monotony of age and experience. 

24. The Tharu women of Bonbasa they say they are immune from 

malaria. 

25. A Tharu wife with her personal possessions. 

26. Keen subjects for blood group tests, <e l am alright/ 5 says she. 

27. 'Charms do not help' A habitual victim of malaria. 

28. Young Tharu wives. 

29. 'I have seen life'. 

30. A study in profile. 

31. "We are Rajputs our husbands' are not. 5 * 

32. Fishing in shallow depressions and muddy waterholes requires 

special outfit. 



INTRODUCTION 

The three categories into which the people of India are ethno- 
graphlcally classified for census purposes^and also in popular parlance, 
are 'race',, 'caste' and 'tribe' though these are not mutually exclusive. 
Anthropologists working among tribal and backward peoples in 
India are greatly handicapped by an absence of an exact termino- 
logy/ A caste or a tribe is distributed over great areas,, from pro- 
vince to province, the same caste in different areas do not intermarry 
and anthropometry often fails to affiliate them racially.} The census 
classification at one time has brought the Kaikadi, Korwa, Korcha 
and Yerkala together as one people,, at another, the Bhatra, the 
Parja and the Muria have been divorced from the Gonds probably 
for reasons of nomenclature. (There has been a transition from tribe 
to caste, and examples of such social mobility are numerous. The 
same people have once been classed as a tribe, at another time they have 
formed a caste. Caste claims during the census operations pour in 
legions and the census authorities find it delicate to diagnose them. 
Absence of competent first-hand knowledge of the investigators and 
the strength and influence of caste organisations are often the deter- 
mining factors in establishing caste claims, and thus new castes and 
sub-castes have received the sanction of the census which has trans- 
formed many an interbreeding community to inbred ones. 

j#ce is a 'biological' concept. The ideal definition of race 
be., "a biological group or stock possessing in common an 
undetermined number of associated genetical characteristics by which 
it can be distinguished from other groups and by which its descendants 
will be distinguished under conditions of continuous isolation" 
(Man: 1936 : 107). As Penniman remarks, (Ibid) 'the proviso that 
descendants will be distinguished under conditions of continuous 
isolation, however, might demand rigorous experiment in a human 
zoo or the happy circumstance of pockets of undiluted types." If 
statistical methods could be developed to define 'isolation' and 'purity 
of stocks' which \ould enable a comparative study of racial traits or 
ethnic types, the definition would be significant.^ With our pre- 
sent knowledge of human genetics, and with the handicaps natural 
to the study of man, we may, however, define 'race* as a group of 



X THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

people who can be distinguished from other groups by the possession 
of a large number of common physical traits. A race, therefore, is 
a homogeneous group of people who possess a large number of similar 
physical characteristics so much so that their identity becomes 
definitely marked. The various traits which are racially significant 
or are believed to be so, are not the monopoly of any group of people 
to-day, however homogeneous it may appear to be, and thus prac- 
tical difficulty is experienced in classifying mankind. J 

Dr. J, H. Hutton in reply to a criticism by K. De B. Codrington 
of the India census (Man : 1934, 153) wrote, as follows, "Personally, 
I found it possible to go into a big classroom in the college at Erna- 
kulam in Cochin state containing Nayars, Izuvas and non-Nambudri 
Brahmans and to pick out the Brahmans (Deshast and Tamil) 
solely by the shape of their faces and heads; though I do not pretend 
that it would have been possible to segregate the Izuvas or Nambudris 
had there been any, from the Nayars.' 5 It is indeed a big claim for 
physical anthropology but it shows that racial differences do exist and 
races can be classified if we possessed efficient techniques, biological 
or statistical which could translate our impressions into mathematical 
units^-\Jn recent years anthropometric evidence is being reinforced 
by physiological and biochemical data. For example, blood groups* 
evidence is being increasingly employed to supplement anthropometric 
data, though as yet it is too early to say how far such evidence will be 
of material significance in the classification of mankind into ethnic 
types. ) 

<3^L Risley's classification of Indian peoples into seven types viz., 
Indo-Aryan, Turko-Iranian, Scytho-Dravidian, Dravidian, Mongolo- 
Dravidian, Aryo-Dravidian and Mongolian is no longer tenable but 
his anthropometric data, on the various castes and tribes will 
afford comparative material in all future investigations into the 
raciology of the country. His view that the shape of the nose can 
be taken as an index of social distance in the country offers significant 
clue to the classification of peoples, though the technique he adopted 
in the measurement of th nose has been rightly questioned by others^ 
i/ 1 Dr. Hutton recognizes six distinct racial elements in India . 
Firstly, "the earliest race still represented in India was probably the 



INTRODUCTION XI 



Negrito, which survives in the Andamanesciand in a much hybridized 
formfl in some south Indian jungle tribes/' secondly, there was a 
race of * 'probably Australoid affinities, perhaps to be associated with 
the remains recently discovered in Palestine and in Java." This 
"may be labelled pro to- Australoid and is wide-spread throughout 
India, and may be detected in all castes, though but rarely in the 
higher ones." Thirdly/ an immigration of Austro-Asiatic-speaking 
peoples has left traces from the Punjab Hills to the Bay of Bengal 
and beyond.' Fourthly, there was an immigration from Mesopo- 
tamia of Dravidian-speaking Mediterranean and Armenoid peoples 
who were responsible for the civilisation of Mohenjo-Daru. Fifthly, 
the disappearance of this civilisation is associated with a migration 
from the Pamirs southward of a brachycephalic race of Euroasiatic 
Alpine type, which spread southward as far as Coorg on the one 
hand, and Bengal on the other. Sixthly, this brachy-cephaly cor- 
responds fairly well with the "outer band" of Indo-Aryan languages 
as found to-day. (Man: 1934?, 153) Indian racial history has been 
so much confused by an undue emphasis on language in all racial 
investigations that however one may try, one can hardly separate 
the two issues and Dr. Hutton evidently conscious of this pitfall 
could not, however, escape being involved in it.) *^ 
\^ (According to Dr. B. S. Guha, the aboriginal population 01 
India discloses four types (Census Report of India Vol. I, Part. Ill, 
A, pp. LXII-LXIII) (1) A short, long and modeiately high headed 
strain with often strongly marked brow ridges, broad short face, the 
mouth slightly inclined forwards and small flat nose with the alae 
extended (2) A dark pigmy strain having spirally curved hair rem- 
nants of which are still found among the Kadars and the Pulayans 
of the Perambicullan hills (3) A brachycephalic Mongolian type 
constituting to-day, the main component of Assam and North Burma. 
(4) A second Mongoloid strain characterized by medium stature, high 
head and medium nose but exhibiting like (3) the typical Mongoloid 
characteristics of the face and the eye. This element constitutes 
the major strain in the population of the hills and not inconsiderably 
of that of the Brahmaputra Valley. The first of these types accord- 
ing to Dr. Guha is predominant among the aboriginal population of 



kll tHfi FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

central and southern India and also h^ve penetrated into the lower 
strata of the Indian caste group^SlDr. Guha has commented on the 
hair forms of certain south Indiair^eoples as Negrito but craniological 
or anthropometrical evidence that have already. been published 
does not make a strong case for the Negrito in IndiarTDr. J. H. Hutton 
on the strength of the hair form and certain skeletal remains of pre- 
historic antiquity found in India and claimed to show negroid affini- 
ties has held that 'in any case the Negrito seems to have been the 
first inhabitant of south eastern Asia'.) As already indicated, traces 
of this stock are still to be seen in some of the forest tribes of the higher 
hills of the extreme south of India and similar traces., he argues, exists 
in the inaccessible areas between Assam, Burma, and elsewhere.' 
(Man in India, Vol. VII, 257-62). In a recent tour of Gujarat 
and Kathiawar we discovered submerged colonies of Abyssinian 
immigrants who have freely mixed with the local inhabitants. 
Some of these pockets are traced to 1000 or 1100 A.D. or even 
earlienN How far the Negrito features in the tribal population can 
be accounted to such foreign elements in the population has to be 
carefully investigatecf?^The fact that many anthropologists do not 
find any biological meaning of the race-concept (We Europeans : 
Huxley and Haddon, p. 144), as applied to man, is due probably 
to the extent of racial miscegenation evidenced all over the world, 
for nowhere perhaps we get to-day any isolation of types which is 
necessary for racial differentiation. Yet through the maze of inter- 
mixture and crossings competent eyes can weave the thread of 
racial affiliation both purity and hybridisation being comparative 
values we a sign to human aggregates. 

^Generally speaking the raciology of India may be stated as 
belowV\We have in the outlying parts of India the Mongoloid 
tribes who have entered into the composition of the population 
of eastern Bengal and the cis-Himalayan region,] and judging from 
the physical features of the Rajvansis of northern Bengal and the 
tribal people in Tarai and Bhabar their contribution to the raciology 
of India should not be taken as inconsiderable. tThe various tribal 
groups, litton-d and inland, who are found in tne Chota Nagpur 
plateau, in the CJ?., arm the Deccan, whose number has been 



INTRODUCTION XU1 

estimated to be about 20 millions belong mostly to the f Pre- 
Dravidian' strain^ These have mixed in varying proportion with 
the later immigrants of Mediterranean, Alpine, or Indo-Nordic 
stocks and have greatly moulded the physical features of the 
latter, \The central belt of India is composed of the Indo-Alpines, 
with broad head, medium stature, fair complexion, who have 
on the one hand mixed with the long-headed Indo-Nordic peoples 
in the north and the long-headed darker immigrants of Medi- 
terranean racial affinity., so that both in the north and the south, 
the broad or round-headed elements are represented in effective 
strength in the population. The original speakers of the Dravidian 
family of languages probably could be traced to an early branch of 
the Mediterranean race, just as the Indo-Alpines have been traced 
to an unrecorded prehistoric migration from the west. Thus India 
contains all the racial types we meet in the world to-day, and in- 
numerable sub-types formed by free and regulated systems of inter- 
marriages} approved or otherwise, while the dovetailing of these 
groups inAhe peculiar economic structure of the countiy has produced 
a complex social life with a rigid code of ceremonial conduct, 
hypergamy, taboo and social incompetence. ) 

V/f The most outstanding feature of the Indian population struc- 
ture is a system of social gradation or a hierarchy with the primitive 
and aboriginal tribes at the bottom of the ladder, and a few higher 
castes at the top, the intermediate rungs being composed of a number 
of clean and unclean castes at various levels of purity and pollution. 
Although birth determines the social status of a person,, the various 
groups constituting the intermediate rungs of the social ladder claim 
a higher status than that to which they belong, supporting such claims 
by conformity to the traditional and customary patterns of beha- 
viour, beliefs and practices of the culturally superior^groups.) (These 
claims, have been conceded in some cases, reducing thr r H>y the 
social distance between them and those whose status they covet/ 
though such social transition may have taken decades or even cen- 
turies. Such population structure has remained largely unaltered 
by conversion into religions that claim to be casteless. 

The aboriginal elements in the population are organised on the 



XIV THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

basis of tribes which are composed of a large number of clans or septs, 
toteijtistic, eponymous or territorial which are generally exogamous. 
though the tribes are originally but not necessarily endogamous. 
*faf A clan may take the name of an animal, plant or material object 
as amDng the Munda-speaking tribes of the Ghota Nagpur plateau 
or may be named after a village or a territorial unit.) as for example 
:he Khond gochis or Naga fohels. /Each clan prohibits inter-marriage 
within the group,, but confines its marriage within the tribe, however 
>mall it may be. A tribe may be patriarchal as for example, the 
Korwas and Kharwars of the United Provinces., it may also be 
matriarchal, as in the case of the Khasis of Assam and the Garos of 
Bengal, or H may retain survivals of matriarchal culture. In the 
former case i.e., patriarchal tribe, property passes from father to 
>on and the family designation of the father descends on the children, 

in the latter, the mother lives in her own house, the husband comes 

" "' '" | 

from outside and the children receive the designation of the mother's 
family and also inherit property in the uterine line* 
S* \The tribal groups differ from the caste structure in their terri- 
torial affiliation, and in their freedom from economic interdependence 

thoueh such distinction is not absolute. Many tribes are known to 

9\to&.^*~ 
have wanaered from place to place, the same tribe has taken different 

names in different areas, their languages hav^ changed and many 
tribes have taken to particular occupation ) as for example the 
Khairahi are those who distil Catechu, the Kurukhs are Gonds who 
live by fishing, the Panikas are watchmen, rain-makers and diviners. 
There are innumerable cases of vertical mobility of the tribes to caste 
status, so that the distinction between tribe and caste is more academic 
than real./^This perhaps led Risley to describe at least seven types 
of castes\ though like his seven racial types these admit of regrouping. 
So far as the higher castes are concerned, rigid endogamy and stritt 

^ules regarding kommensalityjiayej^^ cultural identity. 

i <^___ - " *\~ ~~ ' j^o*- / 

But the same cannot be said of the lower rungs of the caste structure. 

The Sahariyas are probably the same people as the Savara of the 
Ganjam agency tracts, the Rawat of Bastar were originally Gond, 
the agricultural Bhumij of Bihar were originally of Munda stock, the 
Bhoksa of Pilibhit and Naini Tal belonged to the Tharu tribe. Again, 



INTRODUCTION XV 

tKe criminal tribes are recruited from various castes usually from the 
Rajputs which itself is a generic name for a constellation of types. 
Thus, we find that the tribal stage in many parts of the country has 
been superseded by caste structure and the latter has been built up 
on an aboriginal foundation with a superimposed racial dressing on 
an otherwise cultural matrix] That perhaps lends support to the pre- 
Aryan theory of the origin of caste ably put forward by Dr. J. H. 
Hutton (Census Report of India, Vol. I, Pt. I, 1931). 

I To return to the tribal distribution, the main centres of tribal 
concentration in northern India are the Ghota Nagpur plateau, Bun- 
delkhajidj and Baghelkhand while in the Himalayas and submontane 
tracts (we have a number of Indo-Aryan tribes who have maintained 
their isolation and even purity of stock to an appreciable extent. To 
the east in Assam and on the hills to the eastern border of India we 
have another area of tribal culture providing an archaic pattern of 
life and living with head huntingVand beliefs in the fertilising power 
of the 'soul matter/ (with a well developed code of magical practices 
and avengingltaboos, both determining the extent of social incompe- 
tence such as untouchability and pollution, and the rigidity of occupa- 
tional groupings. The Dravidian-speaidng tribes of the soyth.have 

^Aht^-^r^V ^ K-s *^V' 

been widely scattered all over the Deccan and their incursion into 
the north have brought them in daily contact with the various castes 
of the C.P., eastern agency states, and as far as Gujarat and Bombay. 
In recent times the Mundas and the Santhals are spreading far and 
wide in response to the needs of their growing numbers while the 
possibility of a higher standard of comforts, attraction for better 
wages, and freedom from tribal control have pushed them perma- 
nently out of their present domicile. In the Taiajn^smes^m Jam- 
shedpur they are now "men of the steel,'\ v/ 

tafcThe United Provinces do not contain large tribal population. 
Thetribal map of the U.P. will show how thinly the tribes are dis- 
tributed for the numerical strength of these bears small and often in- 
significant proportion to the crowding of the map by tribal names. 
The main concentration of tribal population is in the Mirzapur 
district which is adjacent to the Chota Nagpur pleateau, and bounded 
in the south and south-west by a number of feudatory states which 



XVI THE FORTUNES OF PRIMlTIVfe f RISES 

harbour quite a significant number of tribal groups^ The policy 
of Laissez faire followed by the state authorities with respect to the 
tribal population, has maintained the solidarity, also the isolation 
of the tribes and the conditions found there offer a striking contrast 
to those existing in other parts, particularly in British India where 
contacts with civilisation have affected the life and living of the 
crudely equipped aboriginals or even their more advanced colleagues. 
There is a second tribal concentration in the submontane districts 
Pilibhit, Gonda, Bareilly, Bahraich and Gorakhpur, also parts of the 
Kheri district. The Mirzapur tribes are affiliated to the Munda 
Group of tribes now inhabiting Ghota Nagpur in Bihar, and they 
maintain a cultural similarity with others of cognate stock. The 
Tarai tribes like the Tharus, and Bhoksas have probably entered the 
province from the north-east, and are of Mongoloid extraction as 
evident from their physical features. 

^ \The tribal line which starts in Mirzapur winds in a parabolic 
trend with its vertex to the east of the Province, stretching its other 
arm in a north-westerly direction to include the Indo-Aryan tribes 
like the Khasas and those derived from themivln between the arms 
of the tribal parabola, large number of wandering and criminal 
tribes have poured in from outside and although their total strength 
is not more than two millions they are very widely distributed and 
every district in the province has received their infiltration and have 
suffered from contacts with them. These tribes are of heterogeneous 
composition. At one end they represent a fair, dolichocephalic, 
leptorrhine element like the Sansiyas and Bhatus, at the other end 
they are represented by the Pasis and Doms, the latter are a dark- 
skinned, short statured, flat-nosed people who 'scourge the eastern 
districts of the province* Xfa?he Banjaras and Kanjars are distributed 
all over India and their occupation as dancers and acrobats in one 
province, their trade in cattle and salt in another has provided dif- 
ferent tribal names so that they are Lambadis and Sugalis in the 
Madras Presidency and Banjaras in the U.P.] 
^j^VThere are thus four important tribal groups in these provinces, 

(1) The Australoid or Pre-Dravidian tribes in the Mirzapur district, 

(2) the Mongoloid Tharus and Bhoksas of the submontane districts^ 



INTRODUCTION XV11 



(3) the Indo-Aryan Khasas and derived castes of the cis-Himalayan 
region and (4) the wandering, vagrant and criminal tribes. The 
first and the last can be sub-divided into (a) nomadic and (b) settled;: 
the Ahirs and Gujars for example ply useful trade of tending cattle 
and supplying milk and ghee to markets and peoples they livg^with, 
though seasonal nomadism still is practised by them.) In the 
Himalayan region,, in the Siwaliks, the winter finds the Gujars on the 
plains which they reach by following the downward course of the big 
rivers like the Jumna and the Tons, while as soon as the snow begins 
to melt they follow the receding snow line up the hills where new 
pastures and bracing climate naturally tempt them. The primitive 
tribes of Mirzapur are not all settled or live by agriculture. There 
are tribes like the Biyars who move from place to place in search of 
fruits and berries and for propagation and collection of lac. There 
are tribes like the Majhwar and the Kharwar who have abandoned 
their wild habits and have learnt the rudiments of agriculture, crude 
in methods and inefficient in production, from their neighbours 
the Koiries, for example, who have been requisitioned to teach the 
tribal people the art of farming and the methods of controlling their 
food supply. 

In presenting this introductory volume to the public, it is 
appropriate to state briefly the origin and plans of the series pro- 
jected and in progress. The present inquiry was undertaken at the 
instance of Mr. Bhagwan Sahay, M.A., I.G.S., Superintendent of 
census operations for the U.P., 1941, whose interest in anthropological 
investigation brought me to his notice in 1940. In consultation with 
Mr. Sahay, I planned an ethnographic survey of the Province and 
Mr. Sahay succeeded in securing some financial help for me by pur- 
suading the Provincial Government and .the Lucknow University 
to contribute part of the expenses while the rest was met voluntarily 
by me. A grant-in-aid also was placed at my disposal for the publi- 
cation of the results and a substantial grant was made available to the 
Statistical Laboratory, Calcutta, by the Central Government for the 
statistical analysis of the somatological data obtained during the survey. 
About 4,000 people were measured and more than 5,000 blood groups 
data were obtained from the various districts of the Province. If we 



XV111 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

add the blood groups data reported by Malonc and Lahiri for the 
Hindus of the Province (2,357), the total number tested come to more 
than 7,000 samples. The United Provinces thus lead other parts 
of India in blood group investigations for scientific purposes, and 
would afford comparative material for testing the conclusions already 
arrived at on the strength of earlier data. The results of the 
anthropometric investigation will form the subject of a joint report by 
Prof. P. G. Mahalanobis and myself. 

In the pages below I have discussed the fortunes of certain 
primitive tribes in these Provinces, detailing the joys and sorrows 
of a few representative ones only. In two more volumes I propose to 
describe the tribal cultures of these Provinces while a fourth will deal 
with the criminal tribes, their life and interests, in other words, the 
various aspects of c crime culture'. The war and its repercussions 
on the life of the country have provided hurdles and handicaps which 
could not be surmounted as I wanted to. I had therfore selected those 
tribes among whom I have already worked and others where facilities 
could be obtained. Mr. Sahay, I must record here, did not stop 
merely by securing financial assistance for the scheme, it was largely 
his efforts that made it possible for me to obtain the necessary faci- 
lities in field work in the areas I visited. My debt to him, is therefore, 
immense. 

I am deeply indebted to our Vice-Chancellor Lt.-Gol. Raja 
Bisheshwar Dayal Seth who has evinced great interest in the work 
and has granted me leave on duty whenever I required it, also to 
Prof. N. K. Sidhanta, Dean, Faculty of Arts, whose active support 
has sustained me in my work. I desire also to acknowledge my debt 
of gratitude to Mr. P. R. Roy, the celebrated artist who has acted as 
my photographer and companion in my long wanderings, to Dr. 
V. S. Manglik for helping me in my serological work, to my friend 
Dr. P. Basu for reading through the manuscript at an earlier stage of 
preparation and much valuable suggestions. Prof. N. N. Sen Gupta, 
my friend and colleague, has helped me with his mature judgment, 
informative discussions and clear exposition of psychological methods 
and pitfalls. To a large number of officials, district officers and sub- 
ordinate staff, police officers and officers of the Forest Department, 



INTRODUCTION XIX 

managers of Criminal Tribes' settlements, I owe a great deal. Special 
acknowledgment however, is due to Mr. Y. D. Gundevia, I.C.S., 
Mr. HefazatHussain,I.C.S., Mr. N. K. Sen,, Divisional Forest Officer, 
Haldwani, Dr. K. C. Sea, officer in charge of Animal Nutrition Insti- 
tute, Izatnagar. It would, however, be premature to give a complete 
list of persons whose help I have already taken or would like to 
avail of, as my work is a long term undertaking and my debts yet to 
mount up. I am thankful to the Universal Publishers Ltd., Lucknow> 
for undertaking the publication and distribution of the Volume. 
My wife Mrs. Madhuri Devi, B.A., has prepared the index of the 
Volume and has given me generous assistance in the preparation of 
the manuscript. I have to thank also the Royal Asiatic Society of 
Bengal for permission to reproduce extracts from my articles in the 
Journals of the Society, also for allowing me to reproduce some 
blocks of photographs already published therein. 



LUCKNOW UNIVERSITY, D. N. MAJUMDAR. 

INDIA. 



I 



a 
S 



I 




THE KORWAS 

6A/JT\o FIND survivals of prehistoric custom in the greatest abund- 
. . JL ance," wrote Sir William Crooke nearly half a century ago, "we 
must go to the pure Dravidian fringe of jungle dwellers who live along 
the central hills. They are found only in the Mirzapur district and 
in parts of Bundelkhand^ their main habitat being in the present 
Central Provinces and Berar, where they form the connecting link 
between the Bhils in Rajputana to the west and the Sonthals and other 
cognate races of the Bengal hills." The Kols, the Bhuiyas, the 
Korwas, the Majhwars, the Cheros, the Aghariyas and the Kharwars 
are some of the primitive tribes living in the Mirzapur district. The 
Hindu castes immigrant and domiciled in the district include a few 
families of Brahmins, Thakurs, Kunbis, Koiries and certain artisan 
castes such as Chamars, Kumhars, Telis, Nais and Dhobis. The 
Chamar is a fairly numerous caste in Dudhi though many of them 
do not follow their traditional occupation. The Brahmins are getting 
well established as priests of the advanced sections of the tribal popula- 
tion though their influence is felt more among the Kharwars and 
the Majhis; the latter owe their finer features to a mixture with the 
caste people in the locality. The Thakur, the Muslim and certain 
Hindu castes live on usury, their rates of interest being excessive 
and ruinous to the tribal population. The influence of Hinduism 
on the tribal cultures has certainly been great and many of the 
tribes like the Korwas could preserve their cultural heritage only 
at the expense of their tribal vitality, and to-day, like many other 
primitive tribes, they are faced with extinction. 

Col. Dalton described the Korwas as follows : "Short of 
stature and dark brown in complexion, strongly built and active with 
good muscular development but, as appeared to me, disproportionately 
short legged." In physical features the Korwas are easily distin- 
guished from the neighbouring tribes such as the Majhwars, the 
Kharwars, the Bhuiyas,the Cheros and the Oraons. Most of the latter 
tribal groups are of a less robust constitution, a shade lighter in 
complexion and possess finer traits. 

1 



2 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

When I met the Korwas for the first time in Dudhi in 1931, 
I could not find any negroid racial traits among them. The Korwas 
of Ducflii and of Palamau do not show any connection with the 
Negritoes as such, but a few Korwa families of Sarguja were found to 
possess characteristics suggesting negroid affiliation. The Korwas 
have a very dark complexion; some are even soot black. They have 
a well-developed chest and their figure gives an impression of great 
physical strength. Their eyes are small and the lids are swollen, 
though there is no mongoloid fold or obliqueness. The nose is heavy, 
flat arid depressed at the root. The lips are thick but not inverted. 
The jaws are heavy and prognathism is not uncommon. The hair 
is coarse, thick and very dark. It is either kept long, in which case it 
hangs unkempt over the shoulders, or, as the majority of' the Korwas 
do to-day, the whole head is shaved clean with a tuft kept at the back 
which serves as a quiver for arrows ! Woolly hair is not, found 
among them. Genuine Korwas have a well developed physique 
but look undernourished, even famished. They are scantily clad and 
sometimes go even nude particularly in the interior of the foi ests. There 
is apparently a lack of proportion between the upper and lower parts 
of their body, that is, they appear to be short- legged with the trunk 
fairly long for their stature. 

The anthropometric data collected from Dudhi is given below. 
The mean stature of the Korwas is 158* 17*505, and the sitting height 
is 81'51'424. The average cephalic index based on 101 individual 
measurements is 71*85. The cephalic index of the Munda is 74*5, of 
the Kharia 74*5 and of the Korwas 74*4 according to Sir Herbert 
Risley's data. Surgeon Captain Drake-Brockman who measured 
25 Korwas of the U.P. found the average cephalic index to be 72*0 
and the nasal index to be 75*0. I have found the nasal index of the 
Korwas to be 85* 1 showing a material difference with that of Drake- 
Brockman. Different techniques may be responsible for such wide 
divergence. My previous calculation on the basis of the data from 
50 Korwas of Dudhi already published (Man in India, Vol. IX, 1929) 
was cephalic index 72*9, and nasal index 83*7. A comparison of the 
means and standard deviations of the two samples do not reveal any 
significant differences. The majority of the Korwas are therefore 



Ttffc KORWAS 



dolichocephalic and platyrrhine. As we proceed from the plains 
to the mountainous parts, the head tends to become longer and the 
nose flatter showing the comparative purity of the hill Korwas. 

In April 1941 I succeeded in obtaining blood groups of the Korwas 
of Dudhi, Sarguja and Palamau. In a fortnight's tour through the 
Korwa country posing as an itinerant medical practitioner dispens'ng 
homoeopathic medicines (a method which has stood me in good stead 
on so many occasions) I could collect 147 samples of blood from old 
people, women and children. It is difficult to get at the able bodied 
adult during daytime. In the summer holidays of 1941, 1 toured the 
Korwa country in Sarguja state and collected further anthropometric 
data from the Korwas there. In April 1942, I secured a good deal 
of data on the physical appearance and interrelations of the tribal 
groups in Dudhi in Mirzapur district. The complete analysis of the 
data will be presented later on in a suitable form. 

The blood groups of the Korwas and their gene frequencies are 
recorded below : 

TABLE 





Korwas (n. 147) .. ..31-7 


A 

35-6 

34-5 


B 

20-4 


AB 

12-3 


P 
257 


q 

151 


r 
563 


Korwas (Female) (n. 89). .. 29'1 


26' 1 


10-3 


258 


204 


539 



Blood group data from a large number of tribes of pre-Dravidian 
affiliation have been published recently by Macfarlane and myself. 
A comparative study of the data so fai available shows that the 
Korwas have the highest A and the lowest B value of all the tribes and 
castes of these Provinces. The criminal tribes and the Tharus all 
show high B incidence. Even the higher caste groups display the 
same characteristic. Malone and Lahiri found 37*2 p.c. B among 
2,357 Hindus, an apparently heterogeneous lot. No other tribe in 
the U.P. has shown such high A percentage as the Korwas. The 
Paniyans, Chenchus, and Angami and Konyak Nagas and Lushei, 
all show a high A percentage: This means that A is considerably 
high among those tribes which are more or less isolated or which have 



4 tHfc FORTUNES OF PRIMIT iv 

not been disturbed much by contacts. The Korwas of the U.P. 
are the most primitive element in the population of the Province and 
the hill Korwas still live in a wild state in Sarguja forests and in Uday- 
pur and Jashpur. The Konyaks, the Lusheis, the Nagas, the Panyans 
and the Chenchus all represent more or less inbred and comparatively 
isolated groups. The Mundas of Chota-Nagpur although they inhabit 
a compact area and appear to have maintained their racial type to 
a large extent, have absorbed alien blood and therefore the A per- 
centage is not very high among them (30 p.c.) though comparatively 
higher than is found in many mixed tribal groups. 

From somatological as well as from the biochemical evidence, 
the Korwas appear to be a primitive, isolated and purer tribal group. 
Culturally, they have maintained their integrity and distinctiveness 
though, as mentioned before, at the expense of their vitality. As 
we proceed from the plains to the hills and forests there is a progressive 
increase in the percentage of A blood group. 

. Culturally the Korwas of Mirzapur and adjacent tracts are the 
most interesting and from the ethnologist's point of view, the most 
important tribe to-day. They inhabit the low scrub jungle of Dudhi, 
in south Mirzapur. They aic found south of the river Son and along 
the frontier of Sarguja. Bands of Korwas are met with in the wildest 
parts of Sarguja and Jashpur where they seem to have retained a 
most elemental y social stage, using bow and arrows and content with 
a simple material economy. The free life in the forests they have 
been used to, the nature of their habitat, their intolerance and sus- 
picion of neighbours, all these have protected them from cultural 
invasion and even to-day the 'true Korwa neither sows nor reaps 3 . 
He lives a wild life and 'with his sharp spud digs up edible roots which 
with the fruit of jungle trees, constitute his food'. The Korwas are 
also found in Palamau. Their total number in Bihar may not exceed 
10,000 souls. They appear to be numerous in the Banka Thana 
(Police Station) on the border of Sarguja, In Untary also, there are 
a few Korwa settlements. There is little physical difference between 
the Korwas of Palamau and those of Sarguja arid Ja&hpuf*/ In 
Mirzapur, the Korwas do not seeni to have fared wdl due, I think, to 
being surrounded on all sides by alien tribes matay of which are 



THE KOkWAS 5 

skilful cultivators and artisans. They are believed to possess a know- 
ledge of witchcraft which they employ against the Korwas, the 
original clearers of jungles and earliest settlers of this area. The 
wildest of the Korwas are found in the adjacent Sarguja state who 
have not been greatly disturbed by contacts. The Mirzapur Korwas 
appear to have been derived from Sarguja, but their migration was 
not continuous and the tail was suddenly intercepted by the closing 
up by other tribes, so that to-day the Korwas of Mirzapur are an 
isolated section of the tribe, surrounded by other tribes from whom 
they keep generally aloof thus maintaining a cultural distance. / 

The Korwas in the United Provinces are Confined to Perganah 
Dudhi in Mirzapur district. The 1931 U.P. Census traced the Korwas 
in other districts as well, but the Census Superintendent himself had 
doubts about the authenticity of the figures collected and he, too. 
thinks that the genuine Korwas are to be found only in the Mirzapur 
district. The total number of Korwas recorded in the district is only 
193 which appears to be an underestimate for the Korwas being the 
wildest of the tribes in these Provinces live scattered in the jungles and 
a correct estimate is difficult to make. From a first-hand investigation 
in the Dudhi Tehsil, it transpired that there are more than 150 
families, so that the total strength of the tribe could not be less than 
400 souls. 

Dudhi lies south of the Kaimur range of hills and is between 
the parallels of 23 52", and 24 54" north latitude and 82 32" and 
83 33" east longitude. It is bounded on the north by Perganah Agori, 
on the east by Palan and Sarguja, on the south by Sarguja and on 
the west by Perganah Singrauli. Dudhi physically forms an adjunct 
to the tableland of Chota-Nagpur and is dotted with small ranges of 
hills and here and there with isolated peaks. The river Kanhar flows 
by the east of the Perganah. Dudhi is a Tehsil for administrative 
purposes and is divided into four tappas; Pulwa, Gonda, Bajia and 
Adhaura. Dudhi has an area of 607*2 square miles or 398, 983 acres. 

The greater part of Dudhi was formerly covered with dense 
forest and the little cultivation that the primitive inhabitants did was 
by burning the forests and sowing the seeds in the ash-covered soil. 
When the soil was believed to be exhausted, a fresh plot was selected, 



6 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

and the same process of burning and sowing repeated. Villages 
were founded by burning and felling trees and the names of some 
villages to-day bear testimony to the different species of plants and 
trees which were cut and burnt. In the centre of the village, a group 
of trees were kept which showed the composition of the forest flora 
and where the sylvan deities were believed to dwell. Under the 
trees were placed boulders of varying sizes which were called Dheevars 
by the people and offerings and sacrifices are made even to-day to these 
stones in order to ensure the immunity of the villagers in times of 
famines or from epidemics. The village Baiga or the medicineman 
offers sugar, ghee and grains and sacrifices fowls or goats at the 
close of the agricultural season. Tradition has it that the first 
village to be founded was Banskata (i.e. after felling bamboo 
plants); the second Khairahi (catechu trees); the third Praspani 
and so on. The hills of Dudhi are composed of igneous and metamor- 
phic rocks with occasional clay, slate or schistone formations. In 
the north, there are irregular ranges of hills of 'gneiss seamed with 
dolomite limestone, quartz, serpentine and other minerals'. 

The population of Dudhi has not increased in the same ratio as 
in other parts. From 1881 to 1931, there has been an increase from 
40,670 to 59,187. Much of the increase is accounted for by the flow 
of immigrants into the tehsil, so that the tribal people have not 
increased appreciably as, say, in Chota-Nagpur. 

Another factor of tribal demography, true of other parts as well, 
is the differential rates of increase in the various sections of the tribal 
people. Some tribes which have adapted themselves to the changed 
economic environment and possess efficient tribal organisation, have 
really added to their strength from decade to decade, while those who 
live scattered and have failed to adapt themselves have either declined 
in numerical strength or are showing such a tendency. The tragic 
fact about many of these tribal groups is that they have been degraded 
to the status of agricultural serfs by the moneylenders who own the 
land, or the produce, while the original clearers of the forests those 
who felled the forests and made the fields have been deprived of their 
rights and have to serve the new zemindars for remuneration or in 
lieu of interests they owe them. 



THE KORWAS 7 

Although agriculture is the main occupation of the people in 
Dudhi, the fertility of the soil varies from tappa to tappa. In Dudhi 
proper the land is no doubt fertile but in other tappas it is inhospitable. 
'More of sandy clay is found in Adhaura and Gonda Bajia' which is 
least suitable for agriculture. The river banks are fertile and black 
loam is found in abundance. Away from the rivers the clay is more 
and more mixed with sand till we get near the hills less of clay and 
more of stones, so that even ploughing is difficult. Water is scarce 
even for drinking purposes, for the rivers Kanhar, Rehand, Bicchi^ 
Lahura and the many rivulets that get their supply of water from them 
do not carry water throughout the year. Sinking of wells is a hazar- 
dous process and an expensive affair. The average depth at which 
water is found is considerable and before it is reached often 'granite 
rocks appear' and boring operations become difficult in the extreme. 
A noticeable feature of the Dudhi forests is the comparative absence 
of bird life which is due to the dry climate and general scarcity of 
water. The rains arc not evenly distributed throughout the year, 
and the nature of the soil makes it difficult for the moisture to be 
absorbed by it. The red soil is the least suitable for agriculture and 
yields little without manuring. The absence of irrigation facilities 
and the nature of the soil combine to make farming a risky adventure 
and the material condition of the people causes constant anxiety to 
the local authorities. 

Fruits and roots from the forests (there are various processes 
by which the Korwas and other backward tribes cure even poisonous 
and non-edible berries and roots) supplement their meagre produce 
from the fields and somehow these children of the soil eke out their 
subsistence from the inhospitable environment. Their constant 
pre-occupation in their 'food quest' has circumscribed their activities 
in other directions, and they to this day possess a simple and crude 
culture compared to many of their neighbours who have progressed 
considerably in their material and social life. The hilly regions 
they inhabit, the forests where they 'forage for food', the rocky land 
they have to till and cultivate, have all contributed towards the 
backwardness of their culture. The tribes of Dudhi are no longer 
allowed to practise the wasteful Jhum cultivation; the forests have 



8 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

been denied tfiem to safeguard against denudation. The rocky 
land makes.it difficult for deep ploughing, so that they are obliged 
to use miniature ploughs which scratch the fields in which they sow 
all kinds of seeds together, some of which take root, others evidently 
do not, and when they get a bumper crop they praise their gods. 
But when the crops fail, they blame themselves as well as their gods 
for acts of omission or commission. 

The climate of Dudhi on the whole is not very bad, considering 
that many of the tribes of these Provinces live in very unhealthy and 
malarial climates. The Tharus for example live in a country infested 
with malaria, so much so that the officers who are posted to these 
outposts consider themselves penalised. The winter temperature 
in Dudhi is quite low, but the summer is extremely hot. Had the 
nights not been pleasant the hilly parts would have become difficult 
to live in. The rainy season extends over more than a quarter of the 
year and the rainfall averages about 95". There has been considerable 
reduction in the rainfall during the last few decades, possibly due to 
the wanton destruction of forests consequent on a rapid increase of 
the tribal population. Ordinarily the temperature here varies from 
109 in June to 28 in December showing extreme climatic conditions. 
During the rains, the streams become swelling rivers and the Koi was 
and othei primitive tribes inhabiting Dudhi believe that the river in 
spate indicates the festival of river-dwelling spirits and their dances 
to celebiate it. 

A typical story supporting the above belief was related to me 
by a Majhwar some years ago. A Majhwar youth who had gone 
to sell grains in a market on the other side of the Kanhar, on his 
return found the river swollen and in spate due to the showers of the 
day. He had to cross the river in order to get back home. The 
ferryman had left his post for the night was daik and the current 
strong. The fear of lightning, the dread of wild beasts and the thought 
of his wife and children who were anxiously awaiting his arrival 
made him jump into the rushing stream. He was caught by the 
current and did not know where he was going. He fought with the 
waves till he was too tired to struggle any moie. Finally he lost all 
consciousness. He could not recollect how long he had remained in 



THE KORWAS 9 

water, but when he regained consciousness., he found himself in an 
enchanted land surrounded by a dozen young maidens bedecked with 
flowers, each maiden carrying a plate containing delicious sweets and 
all entreating him to partake of those delicacies. He was very hungry 
and began to eat and went on till all the plates were cleaned. On 
a signal from another girl, he was taken to a big palace in the great 
hall of which he was garlanded and then led to a dais. There he found, 
seated on golden seats, a group of 'handsome girls and fair', their 
feet resting on coils of serpents. He had heard of the Naga Rajas 
and he thought it to be the abode of the Nagas. He looked at himself 
and then at his reflection on the golden floor and found a change in 
him. This made him feel uneasy and he wanted to come away, but 
the wily girls started persuading him to stay. They promised him 
the lordship of the palace with all that he saw, but he kept on im- 
ploring the chief girl to conduct him out of the water back to his home, 
to his beloved wife and children. Soon he began to feel sleepy and 
eventually fell asleep. When he awoke, he found himself on the 
home side of the Kanhar. He reached home and narrated his experience 
to all the villagers, and ever since the swelling of the tide in the 
Kanhar or any of the neighbouring streams is taken by the Majhwars 
and other tribes to have been caused by the dances and celebrations 
of the spirits which live under the river and inside the caves of distant 
hills. 

During the rainy months communication with the outside 
world is abruptly interrupted and the few roads that are found in 
Dudhi become useless for any vehicular traffic. Even when the 
roads are normal and declared serviceable by the Public Works 
Department, parts of them are found to be mere forests with gravel 
land so that little uniformity in width is maintained in the interior. 
It must be said to the credit of lorry drivers in these parts that they can 
safely negotiate these forest tracks for very strong nerves are some- 
times required to keep the lorry under control. Cart traffic is singularly 
unpopular for want of good roads and the entire traffic of Dudhi is 
carried on pack animals. Day and night, the music of metal bells 
round the neck of the load carrying animals is heard. At regular 
intervals on the roads to the' markets are found places for the mer- 

2 



10 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

chants to halt and rest their animals, cook food and even pass the 
night if necessary. Well-to-do merchants now avail of the transport 
facilities provided by the motor lorries, but as these are seasonal and 
their rates excessive, major part of the trade in grains of this area is 
still carried by animals and will continue to be so carried till the area 
is intersected by a network of main and feeder roads. There is 
very little prospect of railways entering the Dudhi Tehsil and the 
local people take pride in the fact that much of the produce of the 
area remain within the country for absence of transport facilities. 
Yet adulteration of food has become a menace and even the locally 
produced ghee is adulterated by the merchants and sold as genuine 
to an unsuspecting purchaser. 

The wanton destruction of the forests by the aboriginal inhabi- 
tants of the area, which has necessitated stringent measures to protect 
the trees from their hungry axe has had its effects on the animal life 
of the tehsil. Though tigers, leopards, hyaena, jackals and foxes are 
still met with in plenty, they have apparently become shy and less 
numerous than before. Dudhi is considered to be good place for 
shikar and lovers of the sport frequent it during certain seasons. 
Hunting has been considerably restricted by the forest authorities 
and even the aboriginal people cannot enter the rakhat or reserved 
tracts without permit. Besides the animals named above, the forests 
also contain panthers, sambhars, chcetals, monkeys, wolves, wild 
dogs and wild boars. The rivers are full of fish, but the inefficiency 
of. the aboriginal fishermen and their improvised nets and receptacles, 
account for the low yield from fishing. Crocodiles are not plentiful 
though big rivers like the Kanhar contain few. 

The forests of Dudhi provide rich timber and edible or exportable 
material like catechu, bamboo, cotton, mahua, baghai, etc. There 
are also trees yielding useful fluids. There are hundreds of edible 
roots which the aboriginal people know and make use of in times of 
scarcity. Some of these roots are not safe for eating without being 
cured and the KOI was and other tribes know the process of curing 
them. The usual process is to extract flour from the roots by rubbing 
them on a stony floor and the powdery stuff thus got is made into 
a, kind of halwa vyhich is taken with salt or gur, both being luxury in 



THE KORWAS 1 1 

the interior of Dudhi, The following plants are found in Dudhi 
forests : asan, jethkhair, salai, abnus, persidh, shishum, rohina, 
bijaisal, sanam, auola, sidhi, karasan, kabu, gurri, galgal, paras, 
karam, bair, bahra, jugna, mapulan, kusum, kuriya, etc. 

A variety of grains are produced in Dudhi though the aboriginal 
population restrict their cultivation to only two or three of them. 
The Koiries and the Kunbis are the two most important agricultural 
castes in this area and it is through them that the process of cultivation, 
manuring, irrigation, etc., have been introduced among the back- 
ward tribes and castes. The aboriginal cultivator in his natural 
environment knows little about the importance of the different crops, 
their 'rotation, or the advantages of mixed sowing. He does what 
his mahajan (creditor capitalists) directs him to do, for he is after all 
an agricultural serf on his own land. Whatever crops he raises he 
makes it over to the mahajan who grants him a share which seldom 
provides him enough for his needs. He is obliged, therefore, to incur 
more and more debts to feed himself and his family till his future 
and that of his progeny are irrevocably mortgaged to the mahajan. 
The aboriginal cultivator is thus permanently disabled in spite of his 
inalienable right to land. In effect he has become a hired labourer 
to the mahajan though he is a direct tenant of Government. Sand- 
wiched between two masters his interest in land has disappeared 
and he exists to-day only to keep his masters alive^ by paying rent to 
the one and interest to the other. 

In the course of informal talks with the officers of the tehsil 
office I gathered the extent of tribal indebtedness in the perganah. 
Any estimate, however, must be much below the actual as many cases 
are not reported to the tehsil office and debts incurred by the great- 
grandfather or the father of a person remains to be paid and the 
mahajan expects and receives interests for large sums which the debtor 
has only heard of as being due. A few years ago, I collected some 
data in this respect from a number of tribal villages in Dudhi and I 
interrogated individual families * and recorded their obligations. 
In one case the father of a man borrowed Rs. 25 from a particular 
mahajan, and for 25 years he had been repaying a portion of the debt 
at the annual harvest time. In addition, he served the moneylender 



12 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

as a labourer in lieu of the interest which after every 6 months was 
added to the capital and further interest charged on it. The father 
died and the son continued to serve the creditor for the debt of his 
father which after 25 years amounted, as. alleged by the creditor., to 
Rs. 500. When the son wanted to leave his village and migrate to 
some labour centre, the mahajan filed a suit for the amount with 
costs. Similar cases come to the tehsil court frequently and in spite 
of the efforts of the administrative staff and the threats of well-mean- 
ing officers, the mahajan has his way. He may not be granted a decree 
for the total amount claimed by him; he may not win his case, but 
the aboriginal debtor refuses to bs lulled into security against him by 
the decision of a distant court, for his relations with the mahajan are 
more immediate than with those to whom he may appeal for redress. 
He approaches his mahajan when he is in difficulty and the latter 
provides the necessary help only to rope him in more tightly, when 
the court has decreed that the strings round him should be finally 
loosened. 

It must be said to the credit of the mahajan that even if he obtains 
a decree against his debtor, he does not enforce it, for his chances 
of securing the money are not any the brighter for it. But the legal 
sanction is enough to frighten the debtor to submission, to acknowledge 
the obligation and make him work for his creditor for nominal 
consideration. A few decisions by the tehsil court against the 
mahajanshas reduced the incidence of such civil suits, but the hardships 
of the aboriginal tenants continue as before and nothing much, it 
appears, could be done to meet the situation. The greatest obstacle 
in the way of their economic emancipation are the aboriginese 
themselves for when they face their creditors they dare not deny the 
loan for fear of supernatural punishment, while the onus of proof 
about the repayment of the loan or interest thereon lies on them. If 
ever religion has had any practical implication in their life, it has 
been in rendering them helpless against the mahajan, for who does 
not know the fate that awaits him if he denies the creditor's claim 
or refuses payment on the ground of inability? The popular belief 
about the cause of eclipses, viz., the pursuit of the moon or the sun 
by their creditors^ helps to standardise the aboriginese' attitude to 



THE KORWAS 

creditors. Even literacy or propaganda by social workers and 
the introduction of co-operative credit leave them untouched. 

The poverty and indebtedness of the aboriginal population 
in areas with a large alien population as in Dudhi make it necessary 
for the tribes to supplement their meagre produce from the fields with 
fruits, roots and tubers. A list of roots and herbs known to the abori- 
ginal people as food, medicine and restoratives is given below. This 
is, however, not an exhaustive list though fairly comprehensive. The 
botanical names are not all known, for the words which are used for 
them are not all Hindi; some are tribal and it is necessary that accurate 
description of the roots should be available before their genera or 
species is definitely fixed. They are : Sanwat kanda (famine food); 
pantujani (fever specific); kurya kanda (fever specific); rudol kanda 
(tonic and famine food); poligan kanda (famine food); kapuni (fever 
specific) ; satawan (used to increase the supply of milk in the breasts 
of nursing mothers); pitha kanda (famine food); hansua danbhar 
(famine food); tejraj (tonic); patal knontiana (tonic); siman ka masala 
(tonic); bilani kanda (famine food); kundru kanda (tonic); chaniya 
kanda (tonic); bhojraj (tonic); seno kanda (tonic and famine food); 
fruit of dhamba (purgative); segat lamia dudhia kanda (famine food); 
khesa kanda (used on fasting days); gona kanda (medicine for con- 
stipation); med kanda (medicine for gout); pithan kanda (famine 
food); dhuna kanda (famine food); biskanda (medicine for relief of 
bis or pain); mekwas kanda (famine food); chit ka kanda (famine 
food); banaini kanda (famine food); tikhun kanda (famine food); 
mal kanda (famine food); kapseth (famine food); white musti (tonic); 
black musti (tonic); gai lakhan (medicine for pain and gout); bharis 
lakhan (medicine for rheumatism and gout); ram raj (tonic); inder 
raj (medicine to kill worms in the stomach); ajapen kanda (famine 
food). Most of these have special methods of preparation which the 
women learn from their mothers or grandmothers. The men hunt 
the roots from the forests which they hand over to the womenfolk. 
The latter work these roots and dry them in the sun. After they are 
completely dried, they are pulverised and the powder thus derived 
is -used to prepare cakes. Medicine and folklore are closely inter- 
related among tribal populations. An investigation into the indi- 



14 THE FORTUNES OF PRO&TIVE TRlfeES 

genous drugs and narcotics known among the tribal population in 
Dudhi is proceeding and is expected to yield informative material. 

In spite of their inventiveness and efficiency, the Korwas are on 
evil days. Their struggle for existence has become very acute while 
their strength to cope with it is failing. Gone are the days when 
the Korwa used to roam in the forests in the lordly fashion of the 
jungle dweller, claimed the woodland as his home and when he 
married his daughter, he offered a mountainside as dowry on which 
her husband had the monopoly of 'foraging for food'. The constant 
addition to their number by such recruits by marriage from other 
areas more than compensated for the loss in their numerical strength 
by death, for hunting and the risks involved in it claimed a large toll 
from their fold. To-day the Korwas confine their marriages within 
the local group. The dowry consists of a few rupees or a goat or two, 
which fail to attract young men from outside. The result has been 
an inbreeding the extent of which has already told on their vitality 
and effectiveness. 

A change from their free and unfettered life in the jungles has 
been forced upon the Korwas and in its place they now live what to 
others appear as an 'ordered existence' but which is nothing but 
a life of degraded serfs. A number of factors, physical and social, 
are responsible for this change in their economic environment. Due 
to the rapid deforestation of their country by the aboriginal cultivators 
already described, stringent forest laws were enforced to save the 
forests. This naturally led to a diminution of the supply of game 
and forest products necessary for their existence. Formerly the 
Korwas organised hunting groups and made inroads into the densest 
part of the forests, fought with the wild denizens, bagged sufficient 
prize, game, fruits and roots, which supplemented the products of 
their crude efforts at cultivation. So the forests were reserved as well 
as protected. In the reserved forests everything is an offence unless 
especially permitted; in the protected forests nothing is an offence 
unless prohibited. With the gradual denudation of the forests, much 
of the protected areas, too, became reserved, and thus the Korwas* 
free sources of food supply were denied them. 

The early use of the bow makes the Korwas powerful thickset 



THE KORWAS 15 

men with deep chests and broad shoulders and exceedingly agile and 
active. The bow and other weapons of offence and defence were 
gradually rendered useless as they were denied incursion into the thick 
forests where game abounded. Both chasing and killing animals in 
the interior were prohibited to them. Wild fruits and roots usually 
are plentiful in the interior of forests,, but the Korwas dared not seek 
them for fear of wild animals whom they were forbidden to kill, and 
also of the forest guards who would not allow them to cross the fire- 
line demarcated by them. The forest authorities foresaw this possi- 
bility, for in the report of the Forest Administration (Imperial 
Gazetteer IV) we find recorded, "The advance of civilisation must 
mean either extinction or absorption into a population possessing 
stronger vitality." "It is evident," continues the report, "that with 
the restriction of the larger areas of forest over which these tribes are 
wont to roam and the resulting diminution in the supply of food that 
the forests can afford, the formation of village communities possessing 
permanent cultivation must gradually ensue, and though in the first 
instance such villages are self-sufficient even to the smallest detail of 
domestic requirements, yet in time many savage customs and arts 
no longer necessaiy in a settled life will entirely disappear." 

It is not the passing of mere customs that is important; it is the 
exit of tribal groups that once possessed a strong vitality and were 
powerful and resourceful, that makes a sad commentaiy on the 
forest administration of the country. 

There have been instances in which an aboriginal tribe has 
been absorbed by other social groups. In such cases the former 
has not left any great impress on the stronger group. In other cases 
where there has been no such absorption, the aboriginal tribes with 
lesser vitality have faced the environment unaided, have preferred 
isolation and have become either extinct or are carrying on a miserable 
existence. A sort of rigid endogamy has developed among them 
leading in some cases to an intensive inbreeding in no way favourable 
to a healthy increase of population. Usually we find that endogamous 
tribes find it difficult to assimilate tribes with lesser vitality. Even 
those tribes which recognise genetic relationship among themselves 
will seldom permit intermarriage between members belonging to 



16 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

cognate branches of the same tribal group. The hybrid is always 
looked down upon and his status is always inferior; a status which is 
not envied by any social group, however crudely equipped it might 
be in the struggle for existence. Hybridisation may be conducive 
to vigour; it is so in the animal and plant kingdoms where the social 
environment is no obstacle to their intercourse. But in the human 
society, we have to recognise social tradition, stratification and & code 
of behaviour socially approved. This is why, in spite of adverse 
economic conditions, tribes do not merge and unite into larger groups. 
Thi^ is also why, I suppose, the larger tribe splits up into smaller 
groups which isolate themselves and adjust their social life in response 
to their economic situation. In other words, instead of any such 
absorption, there is an incessant tendency to fission into endogamous 
sub-divisions with all its consequences involved. 

When a race or a tribe does not merge itself into another race 
or tribe possessing greater vitality, yet prepares for an exit, like the 
Korwas, it may be taken for granted that there is something wrong 
in their process of adaptation. Culture is a dynamic process, and 
invention is the cause of progress. With every invention greater control 
over the physical world becomes possible and knowledge paves the 
way for adjustment and adaptability. Social groups are constantly 
adapting themselves to new situations, for failure to adopt may mean 
gradual elimination as it has been with many primitive races. When 
a tribe faces a changed environment, the thinkers of the tribe, 'the 
dreamers' or the originators of patterns as they may be called, produce 
solutions to meet the situation. The chances of these solutions becoming 
approved behaviour patterns depend on many factors, the most 
important being the status or personality of the inventor. When 
personality is lacking or is suppressed, as it may be among a people 
surrounded by more vital and vigorous social groups who try to exploit 
them for their own ends, the chances of new inventions taking root 
are not too many. Such has been the case with the Korwas who live 
in constant dread of their neighbours and have withdrawn themselves 
into their shells as it were. Evidently the forces of environment 
are exercising a limiting influence on their activities and maladapta- 
tion has already set in. 



THE KORWAS. 17 

The process of adaptability includes positive as well as negative 
factors. A year of plentiful harvest to a starving tribe may be taken 
as a positive factor of adaptability, while a scanty yield or failure 
of crops in the case of an agricultural tribe means starvation and, 
therefore, leads to negative results. This is seen practically in the 
growing or diminishing interest of a tribe in their tribal dances. Danc- 
ing is the favourite pastime of aboriginal tribes. When the members of 
a tribe have some leisure after the ordinary economic pursuits, they 
usually take to nightly dances in their ak haras or dancing arena and 
animated dances become a regular feature of tribal life. But when game 
becomes scarce or the pasture lands fail to supply forage for the cattle 
or crops fail, naturally enough the tribal security is jeopardised and 
loss of vitality in tribal life results which is reflected in their loss of 
interest in dancing and similar activities. 

When the negative factors of adaptability outweigh the ad- 
vantages from the positive factors the effect is felt in the reduction of 
fertility in tribal society just as, contrariwise, high birth rate is known 
to follow a trade boom or agricultural prosperity. When negative 
factors preponderate the birth rate suffers a check, death rate exceeds 
the birth rate, and in the event of the latter happening, the tribe may 
ultimately disappear. On the other hand, when positive factors 
preponderate the prosperity of the social group is manifested in the 
excess of births over deaths and a healthy and cheerful outloox is 
developed which equips the people better for the battle of life and 
helps them to adjust themselves to new situations which may arise in 
the future. There are direct and indirect factors of adaptability, 
some immediate others remote. The direct ones may be of immediate 
concern to the people; the indirect ones, though apparently not on 
the surface, yet help to hasten the operation of the direct factors. 
Physical agony, starvation or disease are direct factors; exploitation 
by the mahajan, exaction oflandlords or their revenue agents, introduc- 
tion of social and sexual vices are indirect, but nevertheless important 
for they affect the well-being of the group. 

The true Korwa who neither sowed nor reaped was forced to 
take to crude agriculture. He learnt to rear a scanty crop of maize 
or freans by burning a patch of jungle, scratching the soil and sowing 

3 



18 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

on the ashes. The stoppage of this wasteful method of farming has 
done them little good. While in other parts settled agriculture and 
animal husbandry have replaced primitive form of agriculture, the 
Korwas do not show much prospect of becoming efficient agricul- 
turists,, and it is indeed doubtful if ever they will take to permanent 
cultivation seriously enough for they hold their lives on slender terms, 
particularly in these provinces. 

The Sarguja Korwas are said to be notorious for their lawless- 
ness. They are fond of fighting, resort to their bow and arrows 
on the slightest provocation and do not tolerate strangers. Main- 
tenance of law and order among the Korwas, we have been told by 
state officials, is a matter of constant attention and very often disturb- 
ances are reported which strain the relations between the police and 
the wild people. Yet, theft, robbery, cattle lifting or abduction are 
alien to the Korwas, but they would certainly protest against any ex- 
ploitation to which they are not willing parties. While it is possible 
to get begar from other tribes, the Koiwas would resent such practice 
and when they are forced to it, would grumble and taKe the earliest 
opportunity to avenge their discomfiture. The shooting and murder 
of officials by the Korwas, frequently reported in the states of Sarguja 
and Jashpur, can thus be accounted for. The isolation of the Korwas 
in these states and the laissezfaire policy of the state with respect to the 
primitive tribes there have preserved the pattern of Korwa culture but 
have made them intolerable of strangers or of interference by state 
officials. But the same cannot be said of their colleagues in Dudhi. 
The forests of Sarguja are not denied to the Korwas, but the Dudhi 
forests are. While the Sarguja Korwas are yet lords of the jungle, 
those of Dudhi are not. Again, while the Sarguja Korwas consider 
themselves masters of the country, those of Dudhi have already 
been reduced to abject misery and serfdom. While the former are con- 
scious of their rights and influence, the latter have lost all ambition 
in life and are a desperate lot. The same pattern of life and living exists 
in both, but the reactions to the environments had to be different. 
While there is yet no indication that the Korwas of Sarguja are 
dwindling in numerical strength, the Mirzapur Korwas have already 
suffered depopulation and may become extinct in the decades to come. 



fHE KORWAS 1 

The Mirzapur Korwas now have to remain content with the 
rocky land from which they are trying hard to eke out a livelihood. 
The poor breed of cattle they possess are unable to drag heavy ploughs, 
so that miniature ploughs are used which can only scratch the soil 
and there is no intensive, furrowing. The rivers and rivulets which 
divide and diversify the rocky plateau where they live do not even 
supply them with enough drinking water and irrigation is naturally 
impossible. The average depth at which water can be found is very 
great and before it can be reached,, granite rocks have to be pierced. 
The District Gazetteer says that large sums of money have been spent 
by Government on sinking wells and constructing tanks and embank- 
ments mostly in the vicinity of the headquarters of Dudhi Tehsil, 
but these do not improve the water supply for they fail in the dry 
season owing to the porousness of the soil. As pasture land cannot 
be had in the vicinity of the hamlets, the cattle are taken to the forest 
for grazing. The forest rules do not recognise the right of grazing 
cattle in every forest, so the cattle have to be taken miles away and 
are not brought back home every evening. The excreta also for this 
reason cannot be used to manure the soil. As is only natural in the 
circumstances, they scratch the gound, sow the seeds and offer prayers 
and sacrifices to the rain god on whose bounties their existence depends. 
They plough their lands for two to three years at the most and then 
keep them fallow for a couple of years or so. 

The scarcity of water, the want of manure, the inhospitable 
nature of the soil, and the crude farming cannot yield a plentiful har- 
vest, so the Korwas are never self-sufficient in their supply of food. Years 
of continued disappointment due to scanty production or failure of 
crops, the exploitation of the mahajan or the moneylender, the 
merciless exactions of the landlords or their revenue agents, the cun- 
ning excise shopkeepers of the interior have all combined gradually to 
deprive the people of every ambition in life. By degrees the lands of 
old tenure belonging to Korwas and other tribes are passing into the 
hands of sahukars who exploit them mercilessly. The Korwas were 
the purveyors of forest produce when they came in contact with the 
caste people whose needs had to be supplied by the local aborigines. 
The introduction of a system of afforestation and reservation of forests 



50 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TIU6ES 

have circumscribed their activities and they have to fall back oh their 
crude attempts at cultivation. The propagation and collection of 
lac and the supply of sawai grass to agents of paper mills have 
become less remunerative due to low prices and an organised 
market which has produced a set of middlemen intercepting their 
profits. All these have lowered their prospects and increased their 
despair, so much so that the Korwa to-day lives in an atmosphere of 
mortality. Like the Fijian, he is not tenacious of life and 'his dread 
of death is a mere physical fear'. If he becomes ill of any save the 
most ordinary malady, he does not make any struggle for life. This 
indifference is one of the symptoms of a 'sluggish apathy' to life and 
all that it connotes. 

I was once discussing some problems of rural welfare with 
certain members of the Korwa tribe. Inquiries about their social 
and economic conditions seldom elicited answers and none of them 
had any suggestion or even a complaint to make. I was explaining 
the importance of co-operative efforts to reduce the incidence of 
mortality from infectious diseases. While the listeners were dis- 
persing, a messenger from the village not far off came with the news 
of death of the only son of Biram, an elderly Korwa, who was in the 
discussion group. I had already put some questions to him to which 
he had replied, but I had not noticed any trace of anxiety or 
solicitude in his manner. I inquired about the cause of his son's death 
and was told that the boy was suffering from fever and acute dysentery 
and his condition was very serious since the morning which Biram 
knew before he had left his house. The news of the boy's death did 
not produce any disquieting change in the attitude of Biram. nor did 
he leave in haste to see the last of the deceased. With the other 
members of the Korwa community, I immediately proceeded to 
Biram's cottage and found the members of the house had already 
collected the necessary requisites for cremation and were waiting for 
Biram. There were no loud lamentations, no tearing of hair in grief 
as is usually found among other tribes, nor any elaborate efforts to 
summon friends and relations from far and near as is customary 
among the Mundas, the Hos and other tribes in the neighbourhood. 
The whole arrangement was conceived and executed coolly and without 



21 

any display of emotion characteristic of mortuary rites. This apathy 
which is the outcome of a maladaptation is growing in magnitude 
and is reflected in the neglect of children and also in an otherwise 
inexplicable attitude of supreme unconcern displayed by the people. 

There are other effects, too, of this 'tranquil despair' among 
the Korwas. As already pointed out they have withdrawn themselves 
from contacts and seldom take part in activities in which other castes 
must co-operate. For example, when rains fail or the rivers overflow 
the banks or epidemics take a heavy toll of lives, village solidarity de- 
mands ungrudging co-operation of all in protective and preventive mea- 
sures. But the Korwas usually appear to be disinterested spectators, 
and even if they are anxious to save their families and clansmen, 
they decide independently and follow their age-old methods, supremely 
reticent about the happenings around. Nowhere is this attitude 
more in evidence than in their tribal code regarding marriage, for 
their isolation which is purely of their own making, has encouraged 
a sort of inbreeding not noticed elsewhere. 

The Korwas do not allow any inter-tribal intercourse. No 
inter-tribal marriage is possible and they seldom observe prohibited 
degrees in marriage. Father-daughter and brother-sister marriages 
are not allowed, but they can marry all other relations and they do 
so with the full knowledge and approval of the tribal society. How 
far this inbreeding has been responsible for their low fertility is difficult 
to estimate, but first hand data collected by me in Dudhi reveal a 
large percentage of sterile marriages and a low average fertility. 
About 60 families were examined and it showed 29 p.c. of marriages 
to be sterile, about 31 p.c. have provided a single issue while the 
maximum number of children to a family was found to be 5. The 
sex ratio was approximately 5 :3. Still births, deformity and psycho- 
pathic cases were also noticed. 

The figures collected from Sarguja tell a different tale. In 71 
families examined there were 3 sterile marriages, the average number 
of children was 3.4 and one woman was found to be the mother 
of 11 children while many counted 6 to 8 children born to them. 

The factors that are of great significance in hastening the exit 
of races and tribes are imported diseases, high sex ratio, abortion, 



22 HE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE f RIBES 

loss of ambition in life, inbreeding and apathy to tribal traditions 
and established usages. Although the relative effect of each of these 
factors cannot be ascertained, the fact that all these are functioning 
among the Korwas explains their miserable plight. Economic prob- 
lems, family conflict, even sexual antagonism, are protected by taboo 
and protective myths. When a tribe develops apathy to its customs 
and traditions, the safeguards are automatically removed and dis- 
organisation reaches its last stages. The Korwas have their tribal 
society. Instead of constituting the panch with only the elders, as 
is common among all tribal societies, the Korwa elders share their 
powers with the rest of the tribe and even women and children arc 
found to take part in the deliberations of the Korwa council. Nor 
are there any initiation rites or ceremonies preliminary to membership 
of the council. Whenever any matter comes up for decision, the titular 
leader of the council summons all the members of the village along 
with those interested. The matter is then freely discussed and only when 
unanimity is reached is the verdict pronounced. Everyone is heard 
and the members present take sides though no bad blood is created. 
On one occasion I attended one such sitting of the council at 
Kundpan in the interior of Dudhi. Some 20 people, all adult, met 
to decide a case in which Magnoo, a Korwa, was charged with having 
deliberately refused to part with a hen which was alleged to have 
strayed from some neighbouring village. Cholera and small-pox 
both were raging in an epidemic form in the neighbouring village and 
it was the duty of eyery villager to sec that stray domesticated birds 
did not enter the village boundary. The custom prevalent in the 
Korwa country is to approach the Baiga in times of such crisis, who 
arranges for a sacrifice of hen or goat to appease the spirits like 
Kodmamata, Burimata or Sitlamata who are believed to cause such 
epidemics. The hen or goat sacrificed by the Baiga on such occasions 
is not killed, but a piece of rag or some pieces of red thread are tied 
round the leg of the bird or the neck of the goat which is chased out 
of the village till it enters the boundary of the next village. The 
method of expulsion is to pelt the hen with stones while the goat is 
carried by someone in his arms and placed within the boundary of 
the adjacent village. Special care is taken to see that it does not 



THE KORWAS 23 

return to the village where it has been offered to the spirits. When- 
ever such a hen or goat is found to enter any village, its members 
become terror-stricken and in turn chase it out of their village in the 
same way. Magnoo who awaited his trial by the village council 
should have joined the others in driving the hen out of his village 
boundary, but not only had he paid no heed to the remonstrances of 
his fellow-villagers,, what was worse, he refused to part with the bird 
which he claimed was his spoil. During the discussion that took place 
in the course of the trial, the position of the offender was cleared. 
It was held that since the hen had no thread or rag tied round its leg, 
Magnoo had been justified in thinking it was harmless and therefore 
anxious to appropriate it for his meal. He acknowledged that he 
had been wrong and was exonerated of the charge and the bird was 
driven out of the village. This was obviously a fair trial. But what 
followed is of significance. Sukai who was the chief spokesman for 
the prosecution got up and made an eloquent appeal to the villagers 
to see that their action did not in any way bring disaster to the village. 
Already the villagers were terror-stricken, for the epidemic in the 
adjacent village had assumed grave proportions, and 'unless the 
villagers co-operated in protecting their hearth and home, they could 
not fight against such calamities'. But whispers went round, 'What 
is the good of protection? We know it is useless. We should welcome 
death. There is no hope for us,' and many others which 1 could not 
catch. This incident convinced me that I was facing disorganisation 
in progress. 

As is natural for a dying tribe, the Korwa lives in an atmosphere 
of mortality. Death is not only due to natural causes, it may come 
any time from any source. The Korwa's fortune may rise and fall 
with the hissing of the snake, the howl of the jackals, the wailing of a 
dog in the courtyard, or that of a cat inside the house. Dreams are 
not real, but when they are associated with the evil spirits, demons or 
ghosts, the Korwa anticipates danger and the Ojha or the Baiga must 
be approached to propitiate the offended spirits. Often the Korwa 
will narrate his dream to the Ojha who gives some familiar explanation 
and suggests the remedy which takes the form either of the demand 
for the sacrifice of a fowl or goat from the 'person concerned', or the 



24 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

promise to make such sacrifice if no calamity befell him and his family 
within a specified period- It is only when the village god is seen in 
dreams that the Korwa can safely predict epidemics or famines or 
both. A black hen, a black elephant or a buffalo seen in a dream is 
a certain indication of impending calamities, and often the dreamer 
is afraid of revealing the contents of his dream. Then, the days of 
the week, too, have their magical significance for the fortunes of an 
individual or of a particular family. Friday is a lucky day for all 
important functions. In marriage Friday brings good luck; a wedding 
on Saturday is taken to be productive of quarrels and bitterness between 
relations. If a child is.bosaoji a-Saturday there is consternation among 
the members of the family and the Baiga must offer ghee and gur to 
the village deity so that the 'evil eye' and the 'evil tongue' with which 
the child is thought to be born may lose their stings. 

Tattoo marks on the body are riot meant for decoration alone; 
they assure the person carrying them of rebirth as a Korwa or of a 
place in their heaven. They also serve as charms against fatal accidents, 
epilepsy and insanity. An old Korwa complained to me about the 
remissness of the younger generation, who go without tattoo marks, 
particularly the women. He thought much of their misfortune could 
be accounted for by the fact that genuine and healthy customs were 
not observed and people showed little courtesy to age-old practices. 
When he looked at my naked arms he realised what I might be 
thinking and said, "It really does not matter for those whose ways 
of life are different from us, but our ancestors being illiterate they could 
only identify their kith and kin by the tattoo marks and these must 
be carried if we want help from our dead ancestors." The Korwa 
who explained this to me was a clever person and had had some educa- 
tion in the village school. A woman told me that those of her sex 
who failed to get tattooed would not be allowed to enter the gates of 
heaven, and they would be reborn as Christians or Moslems a life 
which none among the Korwa covets. 

While the Korwas place great reliance on black magic, they 
are also keen observers. Rains can be had by imitative magic, but 
they must know whether rain would come by itself. The rainbow 
is a sure sign of heavy downpour. The hissing of the snake, the 



THE KORWAS 25 

Swarming of bees, -the cries of the peacock, the burning of leaves in 
the forest are 'all portents of approaching showers. When the urine 
of cattle dries up before it settles on the ground, rain is sure to follow. 
But when the bees leave their hive., the wasps do not bite, the snakes 
do riot hiss, the cuckoo is silent, rain must fail and famine would 
eventually overcome them. Then the Korwas meet together, ask the 
Baiga for help in the impending crisis. The old men get together 
and refresh their memory and cite traditional spells and prayers. Boys 
and girls roll on the highways crying for rain; the young men roll down 
stones from the hills; the Baiga sacrifices a cock and sprinkles the 
blood like drops of rain on the crowd. If all these do not bring them 
the desired result, the village deities are worshipped by the priest day 
and night while the elders of the village sit together and pray for rain. 
If even this does not avail, pilgrimages are arranged to reputed shrines 
and the villagers co-operate in providing the necessary requisites, 
offerings, etc., which are taken by their chosen representatives and 
delivered to the temples. 

Often we hear an old man lamenting that 'times have changed', 
'the powers that their tribal priests or the Baigas possessed in the 
old days have weakened', 'the gods have become apathetic', 'the 
youth has lost all respect for the old', and that 'the ways of his people 
were so different from those of to-day'. 'The women, 5 said an 
octogenarian, 'have become more irreligious than men, that is why 
abortion and still births have become so common these days'. Another 
spoke about the 'golden days that he had seen in his early life', and 
how those had disappeared before his very eyes. Who was to be 
blamed for this? The young men, of course; those 'that were licked 
to shape by them'. How could it happen? How could the cup of 
milk and honey disappear? Gods are not mischievous, but disres- 
pect and want of attention annoy them, and the people's miseries are 
but the logical consequences of this irresponsibility of the present 
generation. A young man who was working as my interpreter 
pointed out the changes that had occurred in recent years and how 
they had circumscribed their activities in the economic field, but age 
would not bow to reason. There is obviously something to be said 
for both the points of view. 

4 



6 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

As misfortune, it is said, does not come alone, remedies, too, are 
meant to be a panacea for all ills. If asked, 'Why do you pray to this 
god or that god ?' the Korwa answers, 'Not merely for* prosperity in 
agriculture; the daughter is ill, the buffalo has strayed out of the 
village, the wife has measles, the brother has a date with the mahajan. 
If the god is pleased, he will, in turn, please the Korwa by granting 
all that he prays for.' Worries have increased and he does not get 
redress for all at the same time, so to him his gods appear to fail him. 
He thinks, why should he offer his best hen if he does not get what 
he wants? He wants definite assurances from the Baiga before he 
agrees to part with his hen. Some, however, do not part with it at 
all and irreligion spreads from village to village. This is the problem 
of the Korwas : they want to drink their life in, but how to do it? 
From it has disappeared both milk and honey; at any rate, honey 
certainly has, and for milk alone they do not care. It is like the 
Hawaiian's loss of land. "We had shut our eyes to stay and when we 
opened it, the land had fled through the window," or again, "We 
had parted with our land for a bottle of gin and now the gin is being 
taken away from us too" (referring to the prohibition in those days). 

The Korwas have not lost their land but their interest in it 
certainly. The various tribes that live with them encircle them, 
like the circle of stones they raise to hedge in the spirits of their 
deceased relatives. The spells and charms are strong enough to cir- 
cumscribe the activities of the disembodied spirit. Just as their 
spells and incantations are powerful enough to tie down the spirit 
within the radius of the stone circle, the other tribes and castes, their 
powerful neighbours, do not allow them free movement and they must 
either live together, marry among themselves and share their mis- 
fortunes or become extinct. They are doing both, the one leading 
to the other. 

The Korwas are usually not afraid of animals; they are strong 
enough still to live with them. They can kill a tiger single-handed. 
In olden days they used to hunt them down and kill them with their 
native weapons,, the bow and arrows or the axe. But to-day they have 
begun to dread the tiger. Sukai of Kundpan proudly narrated his 
exploits; he had the distinction of killing several tigers in his young 



THE KORWAS 27 

days. Once he saved his wife from a tiger by singly challenging the 
beast with a pick-axe. His wife still bears an ugly scar on her face. 
But now? His voice sank when he said how the tigers had become a 
menace to the Korwa villages. 'The other day/ said he (though the 
incident happened in 1926 or '27), 'a number of Korwas were engaged 
in road construction and at night they were asked to keep watch on 
the tents of the supervising staff. They lit a fire and sat round it. 
It was a cold December night. The tiger wanted a prey. Suddenly 
there was a yell and a confused noise followed. The tiger had got its 
victim. It jumped into the crowd and out of it. A murmur ran 
through the crowd, and the news passed from mouth to mouth 
"the uncle got his pound of flesh". The engineer got up, enquired 
what had happened. 'Nothing/ said the elders in the cr*owd. 
'It was the uncle who pounced on them'. It took some time for the 
people in the tents to realise who the'uncle' was. This attitude of 
indifference characterises Korwa culture of to-day which is certainly 
a pathological trait. 

Unfortunately for the Korwas, the Cheros are the traditional 
Baigas of the area and most of the tribes engage the latter to redress 
their distress and grievances. The Cheros have used this privilege to 
their benefit and have also succeeded in maintaining their clientele. 
While the Cheros supply the witch doctors, diviners and exorcists, the 
other tribes have provided the witches, sorcerers and blackmailers, 
and between them they control the life and activities of the tribal 
population in Dudhi. This is why the Korwas are suspicious of the 
other tribes and are constantly in dread of sorcery and witchcraft for 
which they have no remedy but to propitiate and appease a number 
of malevolent spirits. The Korwas are ignorant of the nature of 
these spirits, and whenever they suspect any maleficence, they approach 
the Chero Baiga for information and remedy. The latter makes an 
elaborate preparation for divining the cause of the trouble which only 
increases the Korwas' helplessness and encourages restlessness. 

I observed the nature and subject of divination in one of my 
ethnographic tours into Dudhi. In Mouza Rajhkhar, there was a 
deogharia or a house of spirits owned by a Chero Bhagat or diviner. 
The deogharia was famous all over Dudhi and people from all parts 



28 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

used to come and consult the oracle at Rajhkhar. The secrets ot 
the deogharia were carefully protected and publicity was believed 
to be ominous to the informant. It was with great difficulty that 
I could prevail upon the people of the village to show us the piocess 
of divination practised there. I was told that every morning a crowd 
collected at the deogharia where it was difficult to get access. How- 
ever, we managed to reach the deogharia one morning before dawn 
and noticed a large crowd already assembled there from the night 
before. We were shown the hut, a small low one made of mud and 
covered with thatch without anything prepossessing in its appearance 
to attract the attention of inquisitive tourists. Our appearance there 
sent a murmur through the crowd and comments about our mission 
reached our ears. Some were merely anxious to know what made 
us townfolks visit the place while others suspected our motives. A 
Majhwar schoolmaster, himself a substantial cultivator of the village, 
interpreted our wish to the crowd and a smile flashed from face to face. 
The Bhagat was not in the hut but soon his steps were heard and the 
songs heralded his presence. Oar friend the schoolmaster immediately 
approached the Bhagat who was persuaded to agree to our presence 
at his seance. Every morning he enters the deoghar to answer the 
sawals or questions of distressed persons who come miles to know 
the nature of spirit possession and the prospects of a compromise with 
the offended spirit. The three of us (my student, the school teacher 
and myself) were given permission to enter the hut and we were asked 
to take off our shoes and wash our limbs which we did to their satis* 
faction. 

Within the hut there was a raised platform built with earth 
which nearly occupied half of the room. On this dais were kept a 
number of weapons, a metal sword, a big lathi, a small iron trident, 
a pair of tongs, and a few musical instruments, such as brass cymbals, 
mandol (drum) and nagera (kettle-drums), etc. The sword appeared 
to be very much used and had a blunt edge which minimised the 
risks of experiments as we noticed later. On one side of the raised 
structure was kept a crudely fashioned wooden model of a Hindu 
temple with spiked domes at the top while the centre of the room was 
covered by a leopard's skin presented to the Bhagat by a disciple. 



KORWAS 29 

On the inner walls of the mud hut marks of vermilion had been 
stamped, mostly consisting of impressions of a human palm imper- 
fectly made but imparting a mysterious look to the whole place. In 
the ceiling were stuck a pair of broomsticks, a small hand punkha made 
of peacock feathers, two winnowing baskets and one metallic shield. 
The Bhagat was a young man of about 30 years, a Chero by 
tribe, his hair hanging in curls all round his head. His appearance 
showed him to be a nervous and irritable person accustomed to an 
austere life but his sharp eyes revealed his intelligence and also his 
shrewd regard for us. When we were comfortably seated inside the 
room he felt at peace, and soon after began his customary weird 
proceedings. Our original estimate of his nervousness was soon 
belied by his consummate skill and his very practised rites. A young 
boy aged 10 or 12, or a little more, who was his disciple and trainee 
was sitting by his side busy preparing tobacco which, when ready, 
was respectfully handed over to him. The Bhagat began to smoke 
and went on till the smoke darkened the whole room. When we 
were nearly suffocated he relinquished his chillum, took the cymbals, 
and began to play on them. The boy then started to play on the 
drum and between them an uncanny tune was produced which sent 
a shiver through the crowd. Soon the music had its influence on the 
Bhagat, his head began to rock to and fro, at first slowly but gradually 
faster till a terrific commotion was made with his curls, dancing 
in a circle round his head. This, however, did not last long, it could 
not. Soon after he became violent, his eyes reddened, his hands became 
restless and clutched the sword by his side which he began to brandish 
violently making us withdraw from his range. The sword then started 
its work, it was first at his throat and gradually driven deep into it, 
then it was meant to pierce the stomach. His cries of agony were 
heard even by the crowd outside. He was now in a trance, just for a 
twinkle as it were, and he fixed his eyes on his very shadow. Soon 
after he showed signs of exhaustion. He lost his hold on the sword, 
his head dropped on one side, the tongue came out, the eyes became 
calm and fixed, rivetted as it were, and all indications pointed to death, 
verily a metamorphosis. Then the head gradually gained its erect 
position and he drew the tongue in. His hair was carefully shifted 



3d THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

to the natural position and he looked at himself in the water which 
his disciple had already put before him in an earthen pot. He now 
became normal, a different man altogether from the one whom we 
had known a few minutes ago. He was again handed a chillum by 
his assistant. He began to smoke again, a smile lit the corners of 
his austere face, a smile evidently of success. The smoke again filled 
the air, and his assistant informed the crowd that the Baba (now the 
Bhagat} was ready to answer sawals. 

One after another in quick succession the questions were put 
to him. He looked into the water every time and answered them to 
the satisfaction of the questioners. All ills, disappointments, miseries, 
diseases, even domestic quarrels, were traced to the Bhawanis, who 
were many in Dudhi, and remedies were suggested which were care- 
fully noted by the people concerned. The usual remedy consisted 
in appeasing the offended Bhawani by offering gur, ghee and even fowls 
and goats or promising to do so. For hours this went on till one by 
one his clients left satisfied. There was no payment of any kind to 
the Bhagat, nothing was prescribed for the Devasthan, and no tran- 
saction of any suspicious nature was discovered. It was the right of 
every tribesman to consult the oracle, and it was the duty of the latter 
to serve them. 

But the Bhagat did not go unrewarded. Whenever the people 
succeeded in tiding over crises, they would remember the help given 
by the Bhagat by sending him presents in the shape of the produce 
of their garden, grains from their fields, clothes woven by them, 
utensils or labour for constructing huts. The Bhagat also undertakes 
to propitiate the spirits believed to be offended and the prescriptions 
provide him with a surplus enough to meet his personal requirements. 

/The Korwas know that many animals are friendly but men they 
have to deal with in their daily life fail them for no obvious reasons.; 
An old Korwa gave me the following story : 'In the beginning,' he 
said, 'God made all into brothers and sisters. He wanted all to help 
one another. The forests were full of animals, the rivers well stocked 
with fish, fruits and roots were abundant. God wanted men to compete 
with nature and obtain the necessary subsistence. But men decided 
to compete with one another, fight and quarrel, rob them of their 



KORWAS 31 

women and deprive them of their belongings. Since then, man does 
not trust his neighbour and all the worries of life have begun in conse- 
quence.' 'But why,' I asked my friend, 'did man turn against his 
fellow man?' The old man showed some uneasiness, his face 
wrinkled and he muttered in agony, 'Well, Sir, I tell you, there is 
something in the blood. In some it runs pretty fast, in others it is 
still like the waters of a tank. Some people flare up, you know not 
why, others submit without grumbling. It is the blood that brought 
all the trouble on mankind'. It was not the discourse of a serologist 
that I was listening to, but it was of a skilled observer and an experi- 
enced man. Somewhere someone has not done the wrong as many 
tribal traditions claim; it was the nature of man that was at fault, 
and the Korwas of to-day blame their creator no less than they blame 
themselves for all the evils. 

The Korwas trace all their diseases to the malign influence of 
spirits and sorcerers who probe into human failings, and chastise men 
for real or imaginary offences against the spirits, the sorcerers or 
their pations. Diseases are of two kinds, those that grow from within 
the body and those that are due to external physical causes. The 
latter include all external sores, bruises^ cuts, burns, fracture of bones, 
etc., while the former include fever, measles, small-pox, cold , consump- 
tion, cholera, dysenteiy, nausea, etc., in other words, those whose 
causes they are ignorant of, are taken as internal. These diseases are 
believed to be caused by the witches or sorcerers acting nefariously 
in collusion with their patron spirits, and the only way by which they 
can be cured is by propitiating the latter through the witch-finder 
or exorcist or through the tribal priest, if the latter is well versed in 
the spirit lore of the land. 

,' Death from infectious diseases such as small-pox, cholera, or 
plague is seldom followed by cremation. The Korwas throw the 
bodies into the caves of distant hills or into big rivers with stiong 
currents. \ Unmarried persons of both sexes are also buried by the 
Korwas. Women dying from puerperal fever or from eclampsia are 
believed to be transformed into mischievous spirits, and they are 
supposed to cause trouble to pregnant women or those in pain. The 
spirits of children dying young are known as Bal Sddhok and they 



32 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

cause still-births, deformity and rickets. Consumption is caused by 
holes in the lungs made by Rakti Bhowani, a female spirit who 
feeds on blood. Fever is also caused by Bhowani iand a promise of 
some sacrifice or offerings to her effects radical cure. Small-pox 
is caused by Maharani or Sitlamala and it is only regular worship and 
propitiation that can ensure the safety of the Korwas. Dysentery 
and spitting blood can both be remedied by offering a red fowl or the 
blood of goats sacrificed to Rakti Bhowani or Sakti Bhowani who, with 
their sister Kachni Bhowani, are the most dreaded malevolent spirits 
of Dudhi. Gout, lumbago and rheumatism, too, are attributed to 
the Bhowanis. As amongst the Munda tribes, the malignant spirits 
have no fixed abode, but they hover round the village and move from 
place to place and from person to person. The fact that the spirits 
are not permanently settled anywhere makes it easy for the Ojha or 
Baiga to displace them through their effective spells and incantations. 
The Chero Baiga very often possesses a crude knowledge of the 
efficacy of certain herbs and roots, but he also dispenses filthy 
decoctions.) 

( In spite of the disorganisation in progress, the Korwas have 
faith in their indigenous pharmacopoeia. They have more faith 
in the medicineman and his nostrums than in qualified physicians 
and their prescriptions.], As with all tribal people when they take 
any drug, they cannot separate it from the charm believed to be associa- 
ted with it. The herb or the root or any indigenous prescription 
derives its efficacy by virtue^ of the spells and incantations, uttered by 
the Baiga in the course of its administration. As the Baiga alone 
knows the roots and creepers out of which his nostrum is prepared, 
the composition of the latter is not known to the people. So any- 
thing that the Baiga applies is a charm even if it is only an indigenous 
drug. This helps to maintain the position of the Baiga. 

(The Chero Baiga makes daily offerings to village godlings and 
Sitlamata, lives an austere life, grows long curls and flourishes on a 
vegetarian diet. In the pure Korwa village he makes a burnt offering 
of sugar and curd daily and whenever his prescription fails, as it 
must on occasions, he invokes his pet spirits who are known to reside 
in the Banka hill. He would even requisition the services of alien gods 




A Majhwmr woman in the 
at 



i 




A in 





To the weekly market 



Teaching the Aboriginal 
children 








A* of 

her 



their 

arrows fixed on the tufts of 
hair 




his in archery 





An elderly Korwa 



Sorcerer and Dinner 



THE KORWAS 33 

if his known spirits do not respond to his appeals. The Chero Baiga 
has, therefore, a heterogeneous pantheon to cater from and can pick 
and choose to suit the demands of his clientele. While on the one 
hand his elasticity of methods has enabled him to retain a hold on the 
people round him, his prescriptions have become indefinite and vague, 
which has caused a defection in his fold. The Korwas, for example, 
have grown callous and they do not always insist on his mediation. 
While the effects of contacts with civilisation are being felt all over 
Dudhi, there are some tribes who have escaped detiibalisation by 
withdrawing themselves from such contacts. \ 

f The Mirzapur Korwas admit three sections among themselves, 
viz., the Dib Korwas, the Dand Korwas, the Parhiya Korwas. 
Originally these were not endogamous but they now usually confine 
their marriages within the section. ^The exogamous sects are the 
Oranij Saiam, Tekaun, Markan and Poya, but as the Korwas are an 
inbred group their traditional and customary rules regarding marriage 
are not observed by them., Disintegration in cultural life is bound 
to happpen when the impart of a dominant alien culture is continuous 
and strong. This leads to a growth of personality and individuality 
in the society, and communal worship or propitiation to remedy 
grievances and sufferings give place to individual activities. 

But it is also found that contacts with alien tribes and castes sup- 
press individuality,, create an atmosphere of despair and produce an 
intense feeling of comradeship. Suchjias been the case with the 
Ktfrwas and they are struggling hard to survive. Whenever any 
epidemic breaks out and takes a toll of their number, they approach 
the Saiga and receive instruction regarding the manner of propitiating 
their pet spirits. When death occurs in a particular hut, the members 
of the family concerned are distributed in different houses, their needs 
are properly looked after, and on the advice of the Baiga, the whole 
tribe 01 section of the tribe would assemble at the village shrine and 
offer sacrifices of red fowls, goats, buffaloes and also burnt offerings 
of gur and ghee, The Baiga gets possessed once to find out the cause 
of the trouble, and once again after the offerings are respectfully 
provided by the people. The spirits are believed to enter the person 
of the Baiga .and are known to address the people concerned, advising- 



34 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

them how to behave and what offerings they would appreciate from 
their victims 

f Among the Korwas there is a highly developed sense of solidarity 
and comradeship. The family is the unit of social organisation, yet 
it is completely overshadowed by the closed territorial group. The 
individual has no place except as a member of the family which 
again loses its entity in the community. Social solidarity is so perfect 
that an individual regards himself as a part and parcel of the village 
community and in all matters his action is guided and controlled by 
the standard of good or evil that is likely to result to his community. 
He obeys the customs, traditions and observances of the community 
without reserve and implicitly conforms to the unwritten laws of his 
society because he is afraid that by his violation of them he would bring 
disaster to the community. His endogamy is partly the result of a 
conscious adjustment to the code of tribal conduct which bans marriage 
with strangers and aliens because such alliance might bring in cala- 
mities to the entire group. } 

His activities have also been circumscribed by his dread of witch- 
craft and sorcery which other tribes take delight in practising on them. 
"It is much better/' said Samru Korwa, who can speak for his tribe, 
"not to seek unfamiliar alliances, for who knows what witchcraft she 
might wield in the tribe to confound more the confusion already 
we are in." In Assam, even occupations are tabooed for the self- 
same reason. Hodson refers the case of an expert girl-spinner who 
had distinguished herself for fine spinning and embroidery in her own 
village and was forbidden to continue her useful work in the village 
of her husband, as the latter did not want to import the magic of the 
girPs village along with her art. So great is the dread of the Korwas 
of unfamiliar alliances that we seldom find a case of inter-tribal 
marriage or sexual intimacy with persons of alien tribes or castes. 

In the Chota-Nagpur plateau, inter-tribal marriages are dis- 
couraged but not forbidden and many hybrid groups to-day owe 
their origin to such alliances. As the Korwas share the culture pattern 
of the Munda tribes we should have expected them to be similarly 
inclined, but the psychological response to their present economic 
plight is perhaps responsible for the rigid endogamy practised by 



THE KORWAS 



them. The sympathy born of disappointment that is almost manifest 
among the Korwas, the vague fear of the unknown,, of the dire conse- 
quences to which they have been driven by the reaction of the 
inhospitable environment, all have produced a closer bond between 
them which they all recognise as the cause of their exclusiveness 
or even isolation, both affecting their slender lease of life. 

To an outsider a purely Korwa village represents as it were an 
extended family, where every villager recks one of another and 
identify with the pleasure and pain of his compatriot. To the revenue 
agents or to the village palwari one Korwa is seen to plead for an- 
other in a manner which leaves no room for doubt as to their interest 
in each other. Nowhere have I seen such willingness, in fact eagerness, 
for co-operation among the people as among the Korwas. When 
one villager is asked to da some specific duty, say carrying a load or 
a message or some customary labour demanded of him for administra- 
tive purposes, his fellow tribesmen, at least those that happen to be 
on the spot, would immediately realise their responsibility to the 
man's family, his cattle and his crops and these are safe during his 
absence. On many occasions I have seen the Korwas at home attend- 
ing to the ordinary routine duties of their tribesmen when the latter 
are summoned to the headquarters of the Dudhi estate or when they 
are to attend to any officer on duty, some of their co-villagers will 
certainly take their cattle out in the morning for grazing along with 
their own, and offer their families a share of whatever eatables 
they may collect in the forest and see to it that everything is 
done for the families which would have been done had their heads 
been present. 

What the individual cannot do the Bhayari or the tribal brethren 
must do. The Bhayari or the Kutumayat is the clan panchayat, equiva- 
lent to the Biradari of the artisan castes, which has lost much of its 
primitive prestige and influence among the Korwas. The reasons 
we have already suggested before. /Yet the Bhayari is the only organisa- 
tion which controls the action of individuals and families, imposes 
taboo> introduces new behaviour patterns and looks to the material 
and spiritual welfare of the people. \ In Kolhan among the Hos 
we have seen the decisions of the tribal elders challenged by malcon- 



36 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

tents and those who have developed some individuality of their own. 
We have also seen the anxiety of the tribal elders to retain their hold 
on their people by deliberate disregard of tribal interests and catering 
more and more to the requirements of an alien system of administra- 
tion. Any system to-day appears to be better equipped than their 
old half-baked political organisation which is the parha system. 
This divorce from tribal interests has not raised the status or 
influence of the elders among the Hos and cognate tribes, and the 
cry which is both loud and vociferous to-day in the Kolhan is to 
make the tribal officers responsible to the people as well as to the 
administration. 

i Among the Korwas the tribal officers have lost their influence,, 
but it is no fault of theirs that they cannot grow 'two blades of corn' 
where they only grew one., that what they grow they have no right 
to enjoy, that the forests have been denied them or that mortality from 
the diseases has assumed terrible proportions. Their prestige has 
sunk because of the fact that they possess no remedies to cure their 
ills, and also because they have not been able to forge any tool or 
weapon to help them in their hour of crises. This is why the Korwa 
panch is not a group of select men or accredited leaders of the tribe, but 
every man and woman and even children are members of the Bhayari 
a tribal council which could not be more representative of all shades 
of opinion. Once I casually suggested to a Korwa that the Korwa 
panch has failed to protect the interests of the Korwas by sheer incom- 
petence and inefficiency. To this I received a violent protest from 
Buddhu, my interpreter, who said, 'Our incompetence is negligible 
compared to that displayed by the local administration, for have not 
they in most cases decided against truth? In cases of theft, criminal 
assaults, immorality, desertion, abduction and rape, when they were 
left to the panch, the parties were sure of a fair trial. To-day the 
tehsil court decides on oaths, and has an elaborate process 
with such cases, yet they give A's property to B and B's.to C in 
name of a square deal and fair*. I think this statement does no.t 
apply to the Dudhi court but to all palaces ofjusticejn spije of;thabcs1 
efforts of the administration and the well-meaning people Who are? 
present it. 



THE KORWAS 37 

Although the Korwa panch is constituted of the entire Korwa 
population in the village,, it is not the privilege of every member to 
participate in the deliberations affecting the village or particular 
members thereof/ The Pradhan is the village head among the Korwas* 
He represents a hereditary line and is assisted by substantial and well- 
to-do Korwas who may represent any age group but are usually adults. 
There are certain permanent members of the panch. But the most 
important element in the tribal council is composed of elderly people 
who arc intelligent and prone to talk and to find fault, to protest 
against decisions by the permanent members, and who have travelled 
outside and seen life. They always bring out the other side of a case 
and can always manage to get people to see their point of view. 
Though such people are not many, yet in every village one does meet 
them and must not ignore them. 

This goes about the clan panch or when a village contains one 
clan, the local panch. But apart from the Bhayari, there is a greater 
organisation, perhaps a relic of earlier days, which one meets with 
but rarely and yet is the highest tribal court of the Korwas. This 
body is composed of the village headman, the elders of a clan, and 
persons nominated by the Pradhans. 

The Agharias, the Majhwars, the Kharwars and others allow 
a mixed panchayat and members of other castes or tribes possessing 
influence may be allowed to take part in disputes affecting their tribal 
society, but the Korwas will not tolerate other people to share their 
secrets or have a share in the decisions. Not only do they not tolerate 
members of other tribes in their council, but they insist that the 
witnesses cited by the parties to a dispute should belong to the tribe. 
Even in cases where the evidence of other people would be of material 
assistance to the panchayats they refuse to admit it. Ordinarily the 
Korwa panchayat has little to do. Very little friction within the tiibe 
is reported and when an offence has been committed, the offender 
usually admits his fault and begs to be pardoned. It is only when 
a serious infringement of the tiibal code has been detected that the 
tribal council intervenes and takes any action that it may decide on, 

Inter-tribal intrigues and sexual intimacy are major offences 
communication, but such offences must be substantiated 



$6 THE FORTUNES otf fkiMifivfe TRIBES 

beyond doubt and the benefit of the doubt always goes to the accused. 
In 90 per cent, of the cases the offence is connected with inter-tribal 
social or sexual intercourse. A few of the cases that we came across 
were connected with eating forbidden food, particularly flesh of dead 
animals or of pigs, monkey and snakes. Domestic quarrels do not 
figure much in the Korwa tribal court and divorce is infrequent. 
Witchcraft and sorcery are regarded as major offences for which the 
offenders invariably forfeit tribal protection. Adultery is an offence, 
but it must be reported by the wronged husband. All cases of 
adultery do not come before the tribal council for various reasons. 
While even other major offences are sometimes excused or are not 
taken notice of, no infringement of any custom that is meant to protect 
the tribal society is allowed to go unpunished and even minor offences 
of this class excite a great deal of passion. For example, if a Korwa 
does not participate or refuses to do so when asked by the elders of the 
tribe in the co-operative endeavour to protect the village from the 
spread of epidemics or in driving out of the village boundary stray 
birds or goats which carry epidemic from village to village, a serious 
view is taken of it by the elders, and no sympathy is wasted on the 
offender even by the women. 

f The material economy of the Korwas is very simple. They 
live in small leafy booths in the interior of jungles. Those of them 
who have settled in the villages build more substantial houses made 
of bamboo thatched with straw or grass. Wooden doors, tiles and 
mud walls are more in evidence among the Majhwars and Kharwars 
to-day than among comparatively more primitive tribes like the 
Bhuiyas and the Korwas. ] In the case of tribal elders or village 
headmen particularly among the latter, substantial houses constructed 
of better material are no doubt found, but even those houses do not give 
evidence of much skill in construction and leave much to be desired. 

The walls of the houses are made of reeds plastered with earth 
with which cow dung is mixed in quantity to make it a sticky paste. 
The roofs are thatched with grass, occasionally with crude tiles made 
by the village potter if available. The northern part of Dudhi has 
taken to tiles and even poor cultivators are seen to use tiles to cover 
at least a part of the roof if it is found too expensive to tile the whole* 



THE KORWAS 39 

The houses are constructed facing north or east to avoid the prevailing 
wind currents, though a Hindu does not erect his house with its front 
to the south for religious scruples. Many houses are multiroomed, 
one house serving for a whole family. The central room of the house 
is meant for the members of the family, an adjoining room on one 
side is used for store, and one on the other as a shed for cattle, the 
latter opening into the angan (courtyard), the front and behind ending 
in verandahs which are fenced at night. Where the cattleshed does 
not form a part of the main house, it is situated at one end of the 
courtyard, but inside a bamboo enclosure which fences the house 
and the angan a necessary precaution in these parts to avoid dep- 
redations by wild animals. The ancestors of the family are duly 
sheltered in a chauri which is often a raised structure with a small 
thatched roof resting on four bamboo posts. 

The Baiga may be asked to select a site for a house which he often 
does. In doing this he offers gur, ghee and bread to the spirits of 
the forest, to the ancestral shades and gods of whom he knows by the 
hundred, and gets possessed in the process. He announces the wish 
of the gods and spirits, goes round the place fixed for the site, dances 
by himself to the accompaniment of music by his assistants, takes a 
handful of dust and in his wild enthusiasm scatters the contents of his 
hand and where the dusts strike the ground first is considered to be the 
proper site. It is the hand of god that moves and the Baiga is believed 
to indicate Divine direction. Once the site is thus fixed, the atmos- 
phere created by the Baiga is taken advantage of by the householder 
who assumes the role of a dictator. He orders the breaking of the 
earth and piling the mounds. He sends the labourers to collect the 
required materials for the house, and the whole village interests itself 
in its construction as if it were a co-operative undertaking for the com- 
mon good. The sanction for this unusual conduct of the man building 
the house is derived from the village and the clan gods who are 
invoked by the Baiga. The gods' direction in selecting the site is 
interpreted by the village as a sign of their pleasure. The feverish 
attitude of the village! s to assist in the construction of the house is 
thus explained and their co-operation is assumed among the Korwas 
and other primitive tribes in the locality. In recent years the Korwas 



40 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

have lost all interest in life and this is why the Baiga does not always 
determine the sites of new houses. : .... 

( Unlike the tribes of the Chota-Nagpur plateau, the Korwas 
do not build dormitories for the young men and women of the tribe, 
nor do they send their boys and girls to sleep in houses owned by their 
neighbours as is done to-day by the Hos and the Mundas. 'The 
Korwa boys and girls sleep in their own houses and there is no 
organisation which is run by them independent of the village polity. 
But as is customary among the Mundas and other tribes of the Chota- 
Nagpur plateau, the Korwas-may requisition the services of the tribal 
young men for domestic purposes, for work in the fields, or for con- 
struction of shelter, in marriage and other social ceremonies. Con- 
tributions voluntarily made by the families for such assistance afe 
spent in feasts and festivities by the youth of the village. The tribal 
solidarity of the Korwas is phenomenal and whenever any opportunity 
for joint effort and enterprise presents itself, the tribal society is sure 
to make the best of it summoning workers to satisfy individual needs, 
A goat is the usual price for such assistance by the village and after 
the work is completed, the goat is killed and a feast given. The 
prospect of an entertainment like this acts as incentive to co-operative 
effort, and even where detribalisation has shown itself, the example 
of the Korwas is often emulated for the joy of feasting and the 
abandonment which follows it. 

The situation of the village is primarily determined by two 
considerations, viz., the availability of water and the security provided. 
The latter is to be conceived in its widest sense so that the Korwa 
villages to-day are not of any uniform model or design. The security 
of a village may be due to its seclusion, so that some villages are found 
in the dense jungle or surrounded by forests. It may be due to the 
highest level from which the people may watch strangers approaching 
their settlements. It may be in the heart of the plains, so that dep- 
redations by wild animals may be the least. The stage of cultural 
life determines the nature of the settlements and village sites are 
selected for convenience. The denial of the forests to the Korwas and 
other aboiiginal tribes of Dudhi has thrown many of the families into 
the arms of alien traders, merchants and farmers, so that rjiany 



THE KORWAS 41 

lies prefer to build their houses in close proximity to their sources 
of livelihood. Geographical situation no doubt controls settlements 
in the earlier stages, but with the complexity of life deepening the old 
moorings become inconvenient and thus ambitious families are seen 
to migrate to new surroundings where their efforts to eke out a liveli- 
hood are expected to succeed. 

The houses in a village are usually scattered, the compactness 
of the village not being essential for security. The belief in witchcraft 
is very strong among the tribal people of Dudhi and diseases and death 
and fire are believed to be caused by spirits and offended gods. The 
anxiety to secure the houses from being gutted by fire and to protect 
the inmates from infection from diseases, though the manner or source 
of infection is but imperfectly known to them (all infection, according 
to them, being due to the intervention of witches and sorcerers), 
has led to the houses being scattered and the Korwas are often seen 
building their shelters at distances from their own people. There 
is another cause of dispersal of the houses. The Korwas like other 
jungle dwellers claim the \voodland as their own and when they marry 
their daughters they make over in dowry a mountainside 'where the 
newly wedded couple have the monopoly of foraging for food'. Thus 
the forests are partitioned between the families making up the group 
and a compact village does not grow so long the chief source of live- 
lihood is derived from the forests. 

With the transition from hunting to settled agricultural life, 
with its requirements of constant attention, watch and seasonal 
distribution of labour, the families that hitherto lived scattered 
in the forests come down to the plains where facilities of co- 
operation can best be utilised to effect a permanent control over 
the food supply. Thus an inter-relation between habitat, economy 
and society develops in tribal areas as it is found among the Korwas 
and other primitive groups of Dudhi. 

'Unlike some of the Gond tribes of the Central Provinces who 
still prefer to live without the encumbrance of clothing, the tribes 
of Dudhi do put on garments to cover both upper and lower parts of 
their body, and even the poorest of the Korwa women are found to 
don a torn jumper or a halfsewn blouse or cover the body from waist 



42 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

upwards by wrapping round them the ends of a long sari. , Children 
'up i;o 5 or 6 or even 10 years old are seen to go about naked or with 
"just a piece of cloth tied round the loins and are not ashamed to meet 
strangers in such scanty attire. While the boys move about freely 
without being sufficiently clad, the girls after 4 or 5 years must put 
on something to cover the loins and when they grow older a second 
sheet must cover the upper part of the body. Men usually do not put 
on any upper garment while inside the house or while working in the 
fields, but they must put on a charas before proceeding on a social call 
on his neighbours either in their own or in adjacent villages. The 
winter clothes consist of an upper cover,, called dohar, and a blanket if 
available. The night finds them in a circle round a fire with the ends 
'of the dhoti or sari covering the body, or inside the hut on a bed of 
straw thickly laid on the floor. The body also may be kept under 
straw or payal which imparts sufficient warmth. Though jumpers, 
jhula or kurti have not become very popular., due to the difficulty of 
providing them, the youth of both sexes are seen to cover their person. 
The aged and the old are not fond of too much encumbrance of dress 
and they don old,, torn clothes or even rags round their loins. 

The average Korwa women do not put on many ornaments 
a pair of bangles, a kardhan (chain) worn round the waist, a pair of 
angukhis (rings) on the toes are all that she is seen to favour. Necklaces 
of beads are quite popular among the Korwas as these are available 
cheap in the local markets. The bigger beads in the necklace have 
assumed some religious sanctity, due to Vaishnava influence, and 
Some Korwa women are reluctant to part with them as they consider 
these charmed and efficacious in warding off the evil eye. Men do 
hot usually wear any ornament, but young men are seen to put on 
brass earrings which hang freely from the lobes 5 ends. 

{ Tattooing is practised and every woman must tattoo her arms 
Which are kept exposed. } These are considered permanent embellish- 
ments and are believed to accompany the souls of men. There is 
riot much choice in the selection of tattoo marks no totemic or 
clan significance is attached to these the designs are picked at random 
by those who want them to be tattooed from the available samples. 
On investigation, however, it could be found that certain designs 



THE KORWAS 43 

were popular with certain families and one elderly woman explained 
to me why she insisted on her daughter having the same design as 
she had on her person. The tattoo mark on her person was that of 
a circle enclosed in a rectangle at each angle of which leaves of 
tamarind were nicely drawn. She was one of 7 children of her, 
parents,, 6 of whom had died young. An old woman of her village, 
who was intimately acquainted with her family, one day brought a 
tattooer and asked her to get tattooed and the design was put on 
her arm in spite of her strong protests. The woman's influence with 
the family was great and the parents had to agree to her demand. 
Since then she had had no illness,, a brother* was born to her and 
her parents are having luck. She thinks the design powerful enough 
to avoid ill-luck and insisted on her children being tattooed with the 
same design. 

The tattoo designs are mostly geometrical figures, rarely animals 
and plants, and no totcmic beliefs were connected with the marks. 
Birds are sometimes among these designs but there is no special 
attraction for any particular species. In one or two cases the moon 
and the stars were tattooed. Only in two cases I could find necklaces 
tattooed round the necks of women and in one case a cross sign 
inscribed in a circle tattooed on the forehead, but the woman did 
not belong to the Christian community. 

While the indigenous ornaments of the people are not many 
or varied, close association with neighbouring tribes and castes has 
taught them the use of new ones. The popularity of the latter is 
also due to the display of these ornaments in the local markets which 
the women frequent and when they see these exhibits they cast 
longing eyes at them and eagerly wait for their 1 sweethearts to make 
gifts of them. Once a village market was surprised to learn that we 
wanted to make gifts of some new varieties of ornaments to the 
Korwa women. At first the latter would not approach us for these 
gifts, neither were they anxious to leave the market. They stood at 
a distance from the shop, whispered into each other and giggled, and 
sometimes the peals of their laughter rose above the noise of the market. 
But they would not move towards us in spite of the loud assurances 
of the village watchman. The Maria women of Bastar on a similar 



44 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE 

occasion, filed before us one by one and actively participated in the 
selection of the ornaments mostly bead necklaces, ribbons and rings. 
As the mountain did not come to Mahomet, we had to approach 
the women and put the basket of ornaments before them. There 
was no restlessness in the crowd, the women did not move their 
fingers, the whispering ceased and they looked at one another a? if 
they wanted to read one another's mind. An elderly woman now 
came forward, took the basket and started distributing the ornaments. 
Within a few minutes there was a brisk movement in the crowd each 
trying the ornament on her person. A few agreed to change the gifts 
and the whispers gave place to eloquence and a smile settled on the 
faces of the women. 

The following list of ornaments which are locally used though 
not exhaustive will give an idea of the range of the choice available. 
Curia, used by all tribes round the neck; margundhar, used by all tribes 
for tying hair; phundra, worn on the arms, pahunely, worn on the arms; 
shupet bandhan, used mostly by Kharwar women to tie the sari; 
kardhan, used by all tribes round the waist; tikuli, used by all tribes 
except the Kharwars on the forehead; tanki, used by Majhwar widows 
and others for the ear; chooris, worn on the wrist by all except the 
Kharwars who use a different kind known as churikharwanin\ churla, 
another kind ofchoori used by all tribes, chutki, used by the Majawarins 
on their toes; pairi, a kind of anklet worn by the Majhwar women; 
batidiy worn on the wrist by all tribes; ragri, worn by the Kharwar 
women on their wrists; banwaria used by the Majhwar women; khitha, 
a kind of armlet worn by the Majhwar and the Kharwar women. 
Bahamkas (armlets) and kara, (anklets) are mostly used by the Kharwar 
women while kamarkas are chains round the waist popularly worn by 
male dancers during the tribal festival of Karma. Over and above 
the varieties of ornaments detailed above, flowers are in great demand 
and girls are tastefully decorated with bunches of coloured flowers 
which wildly grow over the countryside. The hair which grows in 
matted tails for want of special care is massed in a chignon sticking 
out from behind the head in which are arranged in beautiful 
shades a huge quantity of flowers which with the heavy load of 
ornaments add to their charm as well as their ugliness. 



THE KORWAS 45 

A hunting tribe that runs the risks of life every day must welcome 
any addition to their strength. The Korwas do not show much 
concern at such increase of strength to their community,, though in 
earlier decades such tidings were greeted with satisfaction and the 
family concerned received the approbation of the group. Substantial 
families among them, though their number is very small indeed, do 
observe even now certain rites and organise feasts and festivities. 
Ordinarily as soon as a child is born, the family sends information to 
the Pradhan or the headman of the Korwa village and the parents 
begin to receive visits from the neighbours. If it is the first child 
of the family, feasts are organised to which all the villagers are invited 
and for days together the whole village behaves as one family and is 
served from the same kitchen. The popular Karma dance is held 
day and night and the young people drink, dance and abandon them- 
selves to mirth and frivolous jollities. Dances are rarely practised these 
days as constant privation and starvation have dried the wells of 
their life and even when they aie afforded the scope by offers of 
drink and food which the anthropologist is tempted to make, they 
fail to respond. It is tragic indeed that a tribe so powerful and active 
as the Korwas should face disorganisation and not much can be done 
to remedy the crisis. On the eighth day after childbirth; presents are 
offered to the family by the villagers in the shape of rice, lentils, fowls 
or goats which go towards entertaining the guests of the family. 

Unlike many of the Munda tribes, the Korwas observe few 
pregnancy rites, but before any case of pregnancy is discovered in the 
family,, some deceased ancestor of the family makes its appearance in 
dream to some member of the family, generally the women and dis- 
closes the indentity of the child in the womb. The dream experience 
is revealed to the members of the family early in the morning following 
and from then the pregnant woman receives attention from the villag- 
ers, in accordance with the importance of the ancestor due to be reborn. 
The latter information was given to me by the Korwa headman 
of Kundpan. When the woman concerned arrives at an advanced stage 
of pregnancy she has to observe certain tabooes as a matter of course, 
which are meant to protect her from physical dangers as well as those 
which are likely to be caused by evil spirits. Anecdotes connected 



46 THE FORTUNES of PRIMIIVE TRIBES 

with the status, influence and achievements of the ancestor believed 
to be about to grace the family in the person of the coming child, 
are often narrated by elderly women of the family and the expectant 
mother assumes an air of importance and relishes the unfolding of the 
secrets of her conception. Sometimes, the members of the family 
may resort to divination to find out whether any ancestor was at all 
coming back to the family. 

It is not only the deceased ancestors of the family or of the clan 
that are reborn, but even spirits of dead animals may enter the family. 
But in such cases, as I was told by my interpreter Biram, the animals 
are those that are known to possess some desirable attributes like 
strength, intelligence, even cunning. This, however, can only be 
known by divination. The husband of the woman, or in his absence 
the woman herself, may approach the Baiga to ascertain the identity 
of the child she is carrying, but very often she gets the information 
in her dreams or those by her relations usually women. The Baiga 
selects an auspicious day when he promises to consult his favourite 
spirit who reveals the necessary identity of the child. His method, 
as we noticed, is to offer a cup of gur and a pot of wine to his pet spirit 
and to rouse the latter to activity by vociferous incantations. In 
this way the identity is disclosed rather in an indirect way as the Baiga 
interprets the spirit's message and he is implicitly believed. The 
Baiga may also get possessed and while in that state describes the 
various marks on the person of the child, either a black spot on the 
right side of the chest, a mole on the cheek, a scar on the thigh, a 
white speck on the forehead or some such physical characteristic or 
even deformity which immediately identifies the child with a parti- 
cular ancestor they know of. 

Abortion and still-birth are frequent occurrences among the 
Korwa women. Before a woman feels her happy state, she is relieved 
of her 'hope 5 and this necessarily makes her take great pains to avoid 
all places associated with evil spirits. For instance, she does not keep 
out after dusk, she would not go near a river or pass under the peepul 
(ficus religiosa) tree, nor follow the cattle to the forest. She would not 
look at a rainbow or even clouds, she does not tread on red paper 
or red rag or cross a string or Vope to which cows or buffaloes are 



THE KQRWAS * 47 

tied. She does not lift any weight or draw water from a well. If 
she has to stir out of her house after dusk she is careful to go in com- 
pany of other women and if she goes out alone, she covers her face in 
a manner as not to arouse suspicion but always taking care that she is 
not seen or identified. She is enjoined by the elderly women of the 
.family or clan not to carry an empty pitcher, nor is she allowed to take 
certain kinds of fish or destroy vermin or insects. Left to herself she 
would not care to comply with many of these restrictions, for as one 
woman told me frankly, c lt does not protect me or anybody else' 
but public opinion, even if it does not condemn it, would not approve 
of a woman who by her wilful acts brings ^ome calamity on herself or 
her family. When some mishap does occur gossip traces her 
misfortune to such non-compliance with established usages, and old 
women shake their heads in scorn against the young. But public 
memory is proverbially short and so it is among the Korwas and 
such lessons have not proved to be corrective. 

Besides the hundred and odd tabooes which aie protective as 
well as ameliorative, a pregnant woman has oTten to offer food and 
sacrifices to a host of ancestral spirits who are sheltered in a corner 
of the hut she sleeps in during night. She has also to invite the Baiga 
or Bhagat on an auspicious day to her house, where he is engaged in 
propitiating all the spirits that freely move on the earth and in the air 
and who may harm the unborn child. The husband does not have to 
observe many tabooes, but he has to humour his wife so that she may 
not feel that she has been slighted or has not been taken proper care 
of. Even a spontaneous conformity to these observances does not do 
away with the possibility of an abortion or still-birth, for it seems 
probable, if not certain, that the herbs and roots which the Korwa 
women use as famine food or to avoid the effects of premarital license., 
may adversely affect the mother and injure the reproductive system 
which makes recurrence of such mishaps possible. The elderly women 
or Chamarins, who act as midwives, are responsible for this to a large 
extent, for whenever a particular girl gets into trouble, they act as 
their advisers and cure them if required. The knowledge the girls 
thus acquire is communicated to others in need and thus an indi- 
genous pharmacopeia has become known among the Korwas, 



48 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

the negative character of which has affected the fertility of the women 
to a considerable extenty 

In cases of difficult labour, Korwa women lesort to a number of 
magical practices. These are known to every woman and no special 
instruction is required to popularise them. Before recourse is had 
to these, the Korwa women usually exhaust all the indigenous medicines 
they know or are advised to administer by the elderly women of the 
village. Leaves of muhwa decomposed in plain water is believed to 
effect a painless labour. Certain roots and barks of certain trees 
are effective in helping deliveiy and every Koiwa family keeps a store 
of such ingredients. When ajl known prescriptions fail, charms, amulets, 
and water to which the Baiga has imparted his magic, are applied. 
Even these failing, the female relatives bring a thali or metal plate 
and in the presence of the woman one of them begins to draw a 
human figure on it while others sing congratulatory songs, sohar as 
they call them. This prescription is identical with that obtained 
among the Tharus, mention of which has already been made in another 
context. As soon as the figure is completely drawn, it is believed to 
be followed by delivery. One woman said that this method was so 
effective that instantaneous delivery often follows, an eventuality 
sometimes fraught with dangerous consequences. It should only be 
resorted to when the pains continue unabated for hours and all 
other devices have failed. On further enquiry I was told that 
not all women can do it, for it requires a knowledge of the spirits 
whose influence causes such acute pain and trouble to the expectant 
mother. 

Often the Korwa husband has to approach the village Baiga 
who sacrifices a hen to churail or balsadhok and the blood of the 
sacrificed hen is offered in a leaf cup. The husband then brings a 
few drops of the blood in a leaf cup and puts a mar k of blood on the 
forehead and chest of the woman and this is believed to assuage pain. 
When the wife is in an advanced stage of pregnancy, a small piece of 
biskanda, a popular remedy for relief of pain, is tied round her waist 
for the purpose of effecting safe and easy delivery. In some 
cases it may be necessary to wave the sacrificed hen over the body 
of the woman and then throw it into the neighbouring stream, 



itORWAS 49 

A week or two before the expected delivery the members of 
the house sit together inside a hut with an earthen pot full of water 
in the centre and the oldest male member of the house., or in his absence 
the oldest female member (the husband is not allowed to take part 
in this case) takes some urid grains in her palm and asks the youngest 
member piesent whether the grains are odd or even in number. If 
odd, a male child will be born; if even, it will be a female child. After 
this is ascertained the same person again throws two grains in the 
water; if they meet, which they usually do for the water has already 
been stirred before the grains are dropped, it is believed that labour 
would be easy and painless. If they do not meet the first time, the 
experiment is made twice more, and in case they do not meet at all the 
Baiga has to be called in and sacrifices and offerings are made to the 
spirits concerned and only when regular propitiation has been made 
does confidence return and the woman bears her pain without com- 
plaint. 

The various tribes in Dudhi engage a midwife, usually a Chamarin, 
to assist in the delivery,, hut the Koiwas confine their choice within 
the tribe. In one case, when Samru's wife was in labour we were present. 
As soon as her pain became acute she went inside a hut where her 
mother followed her. A knife was placed under the woman's pillow 
which served a double purpose. It was employed both as a charm 
against evil spirits and to cut the umbilical cord after delivery. The 
woman caught hold of a horizontal bar which connected the two sides 
of the low roof meeting at an apex at the top and freely hung from the 
bar. Her mother took a piece of clean cloth in her hand and as soon 
as the child glided out, she caught it in her arms by means of the cloth, 
smartly cutting the umbilical cord. Samru's wife then left the bar 
and laid herself down in the bed below. The Korwas unlike other 
castes use cots inside the hut. The new born child was immediately 
bathed in tepid water, cleaned and taken on the lap of the attending 
,woman. We were told that when a woman has had acute pain for 
long hours before delivery, she delivers squatting on the ground, but 
she should never sit facing the south. 

The new mother must abstain from solid food for a couple of days 
or more and has to live on a kind of lentil soup specially prepared for 

7 



50 THE FORTUNES OF 

the occasion. A cleansing draught prepared from molasses, ginger 
and turmeric is given to the husband for no obvious reason perhaps 
a relic of the couvade but the mother must be treated to a preparation 
of satawan which is meant to increase the supply of milk in her breasts, 
A couple of hours after the delivery the child is softly rubbed with 
oil and its head is manipulated in such a way as to press it in the 
anterio-posterior direction. On the third day after the child's birth 
the mother is given rice, lentil soup and cakes made of pulses and 
pumpkin. Pollution extends to 6 days but even after that period the 
mother and child have to keep aloof for another 6 days. On the 
12th day a ceremonial purification takes place. For 8 days, morning 
and evening, regular prayers are offered to the village godlings and 
ancestral spirits to protect the child from the influence of malignant 
Spirits and sacrifices are promised in the event of the child surviving. 
Placenta and the umbilical cord are placed in a leaf cup and buried 
in the courtyard, care being taken that these may not be dug out 
by animals or acted upon by witches or sorcerers, either of which is 
considered fatal. For 5 or 6 days the %|iily keeps watch over the 
place, as it is believed that after the 6th day the chances of injury to 
the child become remote. In some families the mother is allowed 
to eat a preparation of dry fruits, gur and ghee> but ordinarily she 
has to live upon liquid diet for at least 3 days. 

For 8 days the family is regarded as polluted and the members 
of the family are not allowed to mix freely with the villagers, but no 
restriction is observed as to food quest or fetching water from the river 
or tank, the only one enforced, and willingly obeyed, is that the 
woman or any member of the polluted family does not fetch water 
from the same ghat from where others get their water. The father 
does not shave or cut his hair or pare his nails, nor does the family offer 
any libations or sacrifices to the ancestral spirits or village godlings. 
If some festival falls within the days of pollution, the family sends its 
offerings and the birds to be sacrificed to a neighbouring family which 
acts for the polluted family. If any death occurs in the village it 
affects the polluted family, too, as every villager is more or less related 
to every other villager and the period of pollution is extended by 
another week or so arid, the family prefers to remain segregated for thfe 



THE KORWAS 51 

extended period. The attitude of the newly disincarnated spirit is 
always misunderstood by the villagers and it is believed to do some 
harm to the new child. Yet no specific instance could be cited by the 
oldest members of the Korwa tribe to show that actual harm has been 
done by the dead. 

There is no elaborate and spectacular ceremony connected with 
the birth of children in Korwa villages. It is only when the child 
happens to be the first issue and his parents sufficiently well off that 
Karma dances and feasts are held to welcome it. Otherwise birth 
is taken as a matter of course and the I^orwas take little notice of the 
happening. On the 8th day after the child is born there is purificatory 
ceremony, but no Brahmin or Pathari is called in and there is hardly 
any tribal feast given as is generally the custom with the Munda 
tribes. The mother and the child are bathed and anointed with 
a solution of oil and turmeric, and the father may put a vermillion 
mark on the forehead of the mother though many of the families I 
saw did not corroborate this. The lying-in-room is thoroughly 
cleaned, the walls and floor are washed with cow-dung solution and 
the scanty appointments in the room are either washed or thrown away. 
Things made of leaf or bark are generally discarded while metal utensils 
are cleaned and washed before they are put to use again. Earthen 
vessels are either thrown away or kept to make pigeon roosts. The 
father and all other adult male members of the house shave their 
beard, pare their nails while the father may also shave his head clean. 
No barber is engaged and the work is done without the help of any 
member from an alien tribe or caste. Women are required to bathe 
in the neighbouring stream or river and after they return home, rice 
and pulses are cooked in the courtyard which are served in leaf plates 
to the members of the family. The principal menu of the hour consists 
of pots of ale or country liquor, often toddy, and this refreshes the family 
after a hard day's toil. 

The Korwas do nflt have any fixed day when name is to be given 
to the child and hardly any anxiety in the matter is displayed by the 
members of the family or the elders. Names are mere repetition of the 
names of ancestors and the third or fourth generation bears the names 
pf the first oije. The ancestor is believed to returji to the family, so 



52 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

child being the reincarnated self of the ancestor will do nothing that 
was not done by the latter in life* 

While most primitive tribes do have some indigenous system of 
education to shape youth to manhood, the Korwa children grow with- 
out any control from the society or even from the family to which they 
belong. As soon as children reach 8 or 10 years of age they freely 
mix with the adults and accompany them to the forests, smoke with 
their elders and are treated by them as friends. When he is 15 or 
16, he sits in the tribal council, takes sides in disputes and expresses 
opinions without the least restraint or fear of interference or punish- 
ment. He thus grows to his natural height unschooled and untaught, 
yet utilising his native talent for socialised existence. There is no 
dormitory in the Korwa villages, no institution which teaches all the 
processes connected with sex relationship as among the Oraons, no 
sacred influence of hearth and home and no apprenticeship for learning 
the secrets of the tribe or the tribal lore itself. When the villagers 
dance the Karma, the children of the village gather together and join 
the adults, imitate the steps, play the drums, sound the horn or the 
gong and thus learn the art without any active effort by the elders to 
train them. When the dancers sing in tune, the children also do the 
same among themselves and before long learn the music. While 
other tribes insist on the correct singing of songs and exact renderings, 
the Korwas are seldom found to take any notice of mistakes. 

It is only in learning the methods of food quest that the Korwa 
children receive help from the elders. When they go out hunting 
they take the boys with them. The boys at first follow the beaters 
but gradually they are taught how to shoot with bow and arrows or 
throw missiles, and such is their aptitude that they very soon become 
skilful archers and adepts in throwing stones and other projectiles. 
In the selection of roots and fruits the boys get their lessons from the 
adults who take them into the densest parts of the forest and show them 
what to select, the varieties which they can use for food or for medicine 
or for tanning hides, also the poisonous breeds which they should avoid. 

Some Korwas have taken to farming but have proved poor 
farmers. The agricultural life they have adopted has not been a 
gradual and unconscious adjustment to the environment, nor has 



THBKOKWAS 53 

this stage been achieved by a slow process of evolution from the hunting 
or nomadic life. They are agriculturists by compulsion, so that the 
methods they employ are far from satisfactory. Still the hunting and 
predatory instincts which they possessed have given place to settled 
ways of life which have been reflected to a certain extent in their 
social and economic life. Marriage by capture is a thing of the past. 
Instead they have now a method of selection which means less effort 
and which engenders little or no bitterness. The field of selection has 
of course been greatly circumscribed, but there is still scope for mutual 
choice. As a rule, all marriages are arranged by the parties concerned 
and the elders seldom interfere in the choice of the young people. 
Where the parents take an active part in arranging marriages, the 
final choice remains with the young people concerned and any refusal 
on the part of the bride or the bridegroom leads to the dissolution of 
the proposed union. There has been of late a tendency to child marriage 
which the Korwas have learnt from their Hinduised neighbours, but 
the number of cases of child marriage are few and there is no indica- 
tion that it is likely to gain in popularity. In those cases of child 
marriage which I observed, the contracting parties happened to be 
of affluent circumstances and could afford the luxury. 

The average Korwa is poor, often a destitute and withal impro- 
vident. He would seldom decide to marry before he is sure of being 
able to maintain a family, so that he always marries late in life. 
Women are free to work and have an income and it is this fact which 
makes a Korwa young man select his partner older than himself. 
Even widows are married by young people if there is some possibility 
of an additional income to the family through them. The sex ratio 
in the Korwa tribe is 5 :3 approximately, but it has not led to polygamy. 
This fact negatives the suggestion that a disturbed balance of the sexes 
leads to polygamy. The stress of economic forces may often resist 
or override the stress of biological forces. Crooke has mentioned of 
the dowry the Korwa father used to settle on her daughter and it 
consisted of c a mountainside on which she has the monopoly of foraging 
for food". In a matriarchal society it is customary for a woman to 
inherit her family property, but the fact that the Korwa father provides 
land for her daughter may not represent a survival of a matriarchal 



54 THE FORTUNES QF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

stage of culture. We have said that the Korwas used to recruit their 
clansjnen from neighbouring areas where they were in strength to 
settle in villages with a sparse Korwa population and the usual practice 
was to share out the land or part of the forest to the recruit to maKe 
it attractive for him to do so. 

The brideprice has remained customary from very early times 
and to-day it varies from Rs. 5 to Rs. 9. In addition to this pecuniary 
consideration, the bridegroom has to offer ornaments the cost of which 
varies from Rs, 10 to Rs. 20. A widow is more expensive than a 
maiden and the brideprice is settled by the widow herself, The cost 
of feeding the whole community conies to about Rs. 20 to Rs. 30, 
so the average expense for a marriage may be estimated at about 
Rs, 50 including 2 maunds of rice and clothes. The custom, of bride- 
price and the amount required for it have great influence on the social 
life of a community for even the marriage age is determined to a large 
extent by these considerations. An extreme case is afforded by the 
HOS, \\hcre the excessive brideprice has been responsible for raising 
the age of marriage which is compensated by irregularity of sex 
relationship as well as premarital intimacy between the sexes which 
is not taken seriously by the elders of the society. 

"The average marriage age for the boys is seldom below 20 while 
girls are not married before 15. Puberty sets in about the 13th year 
and marriage and cohabitation go together. A whispering statistics 
compiled by me from the Korwa women put the average age at the 
menarche as 13*6 and about 56 p.c. of the cases (n. 43) were between 
the age period 13-14, about 14 p.c. was between 14 and 15 and seldom 
one case was reported after 17. In one case, a girl of 10 was pointed 
put by an .elderly woman as haying had her first menstruation, but 
such cases are rare. The age compilation among primitive people is 
extremely difficult and figures . based on such evidence should tye 
regarded with caution. It is not always that the swelling^of the breasts, 
or as the Gonds call it (as reported by Verrier Elwin) 'little mushrooms 
pushing their way up 5 , is an evidence of the appearance of the menses. 
There is always a time interval between, the signal and the act. 

The Korwa women, unlike the Gonds, cover their body from the 
waist upwards^ and girls put on a rag to cover their breasts even before 



f Hfc KOftWAs 55 

they begin to show. There is no ceremony/ public or private, at the 
menarche, but the mother must explain the unusual phenomenon to 
the novice though the latter gets her first reaction interpreted by her 
playmates. The elderly women who frankly answered my queries 
regarding menstruation, did not think that the moment when a girl 
gets her first flow is awaited by her, and that she feels any great 
excitement or delight. 1 1 is so sudden that she feels deeply embarrassed 
and her first reaction is one of fear as well as of helplessness. She 
pauses for a moment perhaps, but she must run home to tell her mother 
what had happened. The periods among the Korwas continue for 
more than 3 days, and the girls and elderly women whom I questioned 
were not unanimous as to the length of the periods. Three, four and 
even five days is said to be the normal" time, and when it is very short 
or very long they suspect evil and must take to charms and amulets. 
These the Chamarin or the wife of the Baiga knows and prescribes. 
I could discover no magical practice connected with menstruation 
and it was only a chance sentence carelessly uttered by a woman 
which encouraged me to press for further enlightenment. 'In our 
days,' said the woman (she was careful to look round and watch the 
reaction on the face of her companions) , 'we put the first day's blood or 
a part of it in a small earthen pot and buried it at night under a stone 
slab somewhere near the house and while doing so we were asked to 
pray to the village deities to see that nothing unusual happened to Us. 
On the third or fourth day when the flow dried up, we returned to 
the same place and dug out the pot which was also dry by this time, 
and we carefully covered the pot on the way to the river when we 
bathed for purification. 5 'But', she added, 'no girl does it now and 
even near relations do not know when a girl gets her periods.' 

Puberty which is synonymous with the menarche, does not 
immediately raise the status of the Korwa girls nor are there any 
organised age grades in the Korwa society. The boys do not have 
any initiation ceremony (either and there is no restriction in the 
mixing of the sexes. 

Unmarried boys nd girls freely mix together but no premarital 
license is noticed among them, The boys do not show any discourtesy 
to the girls and there is no common dormitory where both the sexes 



56 THE FORT UNES OP PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

can live or pass long hours of the night as among the Gonds and many 
other tribes. Intrigues before marriage are not many and elopements 
are very rare. A woman is usually chaste but immorality is not 
unknown particularly among women between 30 and 40. But such 
immorality is not regarded too seriously by the tribal society, Divorce 
is allowed., as is also widow remarriage. There is no intrusion marriage 
among the Korwas nor are there many cases of disappointed love. 
As the Korwas are an inbred group, and there being no prohibited 
degrees in marriage except with the mother and the sister, one can 
marry any female relation. Conversely, with the exception of the 
father and his brother or brothers, also of one's own brother, every 
young man is an eligible bridegroom for a girl, and any intimacy that 
may grow between two young persons may end in marriage. Yet 
in practice marriages between close relations arc not very frequent. 

Although marriage between close relations is not barred by 
the tribal code, still every Korwa does not or cannot marry. He 
has to find the brideprice, provide means to maintain his family, 
neither being too easy for him. The land he possesses does not afford 
him subsistence throughout the year. The little he earns by labour 
in the village does not suffice for his daily needs, besides he has to pay 
the interests of the debt which he has inherited from his father or has 
himself incurred. So he often has to live celebate all his life. But 
wherever widow remarriage is allowed concubinage must be pre- 
valent and the Korwas take it as a matter of course. So those that 
do not marry, keep women as concubines though their social status is 
not above reproach. Illegitimacy is not encouraged and as soon as 
an unmarried woman feels she is with child, the couple concerned are 
obliged to go through a form of marriage which removes the stigma 
of illegitimacy from the offspring. 

Cross-cousin marriage, levirate^ sorrorate, marriage with mother's 
sister, father's sister, granddaughter and all kinds of nieces are possible 
among the Korwas. There is no such thing as obligatory marriage as 
among some sections of the tribal populations in the Deccan where 
a man must marry his maternal uncle's daughter. Certain customs 
point to the popularity of cross-cousin marriage. Traces of avunculate 
are discernible. The mother's brother not only takes an active 



THE KORWAS 57 

interest in the marriage of his nephew, he receives some presents from 
his nephew at the time of the marriage. This is regarded as obligatory 
and no marriage is possible without this exchange of formalities. The 
mother's brother has also to offer some presents to the nephew which 
must be received before the nephew sets out to marry. At present 
the custom is only a formal one and actual exchange of presents is not 
much insisted upon. Yet the mother's brother takes an active part 
in the ceremony. 

There is another custom observed by the KOI was which streng- 
thens the position of the mother's brother. The bride and the bride- 
groom after marriage must not enter the latter's house unless they 
have spent a night in the maternal uncle's house. If the maternal 
uncle's residence is in the same village as that of the nephew, the 
night's stay is not necessary. 

There are two forms of marriage among the Korwas. One 
is the ordinary and usual form called biwah, the other is called sagai 
or widow marriage. As the Korwa widower prefers to marry a widow, 
the number of sagai is pretty high. The brideprice is generally higher 
in the case of sagai, for both the widow and her relations have to be 
satisfied. The parents of the widow do not receive any money, but 
her husband's people do and the amount is settled between the widow 
and her prospective husband. The widow, of course, receives ornaments, 
clothes and coins and out of her share she spends something for the 
propitiation of the village godlings and ancestral spirits. In the biwah 
form, the maternal uncle undertakes to negotiate on behalf of the 
nephew and he may take the assistance of friends of the bridegroom. 
The latter direct the uncle in such a way that he is led to choose the 
girl his nephew would like to marry and sometimes it is so cleverly 
done that the uncle does not know that he does so. 

It is not true, as one young man told me, that the maternal 
uncle must intervene in the affairs of his nephew, but it has proved 
to be most effective, for the maternal uncle is always more indulgent 
to the nephew than the latter's parents. As soon as the brideprice 
is fixed and the parties agree to the match, invitation is sent on the 
bridegroom's part to the bride's people who may come to see the 
bridegroom, If the 'groom is already known to the bribe's people, 



58 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

no .such formality is needed and an auspicious day is selected when 
the ceremony is fixed to take place. On the appointed day the bride- 
groom's party start for the bride's village or tola, and on their way 
they carefully note the omens which they interpret before they reach 
their destination. Once the procession starts no withdrawal from the 
contract is allowed, but in order to counteract the influence of bad 
omens elaborate arrangements are made to propitiate the village 
godlings to whom sacrifices are made by the village Baiga. In the 
course of the sacrifices, Kaimas are danced to placate the spirits. 
In the midst of the dance, someone gets possessed and while in that 
state he gives out the name of the spirit who needs to be propitiated 
and what offerings and sacrifices would please the offended spirit. The 
dance is performed in twilight as it is believed that the spirits can be 
addressed most effectively at dusk or dawn. 

The marriage ceremony proper is a simple affair. The bride 
sits on the lap of her maternal uncle or maternal grandfather who 
, ceremonially makes a present of her to the 'groom seated on the lap 
of his maternal uncle. The bridegroom takes some red lead and rubs 
it on the forehead of the bride and the elderly members of the village 
bless the couple exhorting them to lead a happy and contented life 
and live together as faithful partners. The girl is advised to behave 
properly in her new house, to show respect to superiors, and actively 
,to assist the husband and other members of the family by subscribing 
her patience and efforts to solve the various problems of their family 
life even by hard work if necessary. The Korwa elders mark the 
.occasion by citing instances of unfaithfulness and the danger to the 
society in consequence, of many handicaps they suffer from., and the 
hostility of their neighbours who employ everything in their power 
to malign and exploit them. The necessity of a united front against 
the aggressiveness of their neighbours is solemnly inculcated in the 
young couple's minds on such occasions and the withdrawal from the 
foci of contacts become complete. 

The binding part of the ceremony being over, the relations of 
the bride scatter fried rice over the couple and the latter walk round 
the marriage post thrice afte/ which the couple are conducted to a 
lonely hut $t one extremity of the village. Here the youthful company 



THE KORWAS 59 

treat the newly wedded couple to dance jfcnci music and leave them 
alone at night to each other's company. In earlier days, the couple 
were taken to a forest and left there to shift for themselves and if they 
succeeded in doing so, they were welcomed back in the village. In the 
bride's house the guests are treated to sumptuous feasts and dances 
with tests of skill and endurance arranged to entertain the guests. Next 
morning the couple take part in the dances and display their skill and 
technique to an admiring ciowd. The bridegroom's party leaves 
the village after breakfast. 

The sanctity of conjugal life amongst the Korwas should not 
be assessed by the simplicity of the marriage rites alone. The Korwa 
wife is generally faithful to her spouse and she is not known very often 
to entangle herself in intrigues within or outside the clan. Of course 
divorce is allowed and undue hardship to a wife or husband is re- 
dressed to the satisfaction of both man and \\ife. Sterility or impotence 
is no ground for divorce though the option to separate may be 
exercised by either party. A large number of women in Dudhi were 
found to be sterile, but they lived with their husbands fairly happily. 
A husband also is not usually tempted to take a second wife if his 
first proves barren. Barrenness is a punishment, said one woman 
victim, her husband replying, 'If so, let it be lived through,' and they 
do live through such loneliness. Adultery is not encouraged if it is 
confined within the tribe. There may be some who escape, but if it is 
confined within the tribe, the Korwa panch and the elders of the tribe 
vehemently denounce the offender and demand abject surrender of the 
person concerned. If the offender is a woman, she is even beaten by 
the elders, if man a heavy fine with ostracism are prescribed. The 
woman is not allowed to go with her lover; she must stay in the tribe 
and suffer for her sins. She should not be allowed to increase the 
number of their exploiters, said an old Korwa. His tone and the 
implication of his gesture convinced me of the hate that smoulders in 
the Korwa heart against those of their neighbours who they believe 
are causing them miseries. 

A dissolving social structure does not hold on to traditional 
ways of life and living, nor does it regard religious beliefs sacred 
and sacrosanct. The tribal population of Dudhi represents various 



60 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

levels of thought arid action, beliefs and rites, while various degrees of 
liberty characterise their spiritual code. Three trends are generally 
noticeable. Tribes like the Agharias who own clan gods to whom they 
periodically offer prayers and sacrifices., but have begun to rename 
them, borrowing terms from their more advanced compatriots. They 
worship their clan goddess in the garb of Lohasur Devi, some time 
miscalled Dutga, but their tribal practices as to sacrifice still remain, 
A she-goat is sacrificed, along with burnt offerings of gur, ghee and 
curd or its preparation. Tribes like the Korw?s who are on evil days 
still claim allegiance to their great clan god Raja Chandol, but their 
interest is more concentrated on propitiating the evil spirits they know 
by the legion, or those whom their shrewd neighbours force on 
them in order to exploit them with their help. Thus when the clays 
warm up and hot winds begin to blow and outdoor work becomes 
difficult and hazardous, the Cheros picture the fire-eating goddess, 
Angar Mata, as riding a chariot which is wheeled round and round 
the sky, to spread fire which settles as excessive heat below. It 
15 the Cheros who can negotiate with the destructive agent and the 
Korwas and other tribes must approach the Chero Baiga with gur, 
ghee and goat if necessary. 

Again, there are tribes like the Majhwar, the Kharwar and 
the Cheros who own their tribal gods along with a large number of 
beneficent and evil spirits and godlings, and whose efforts to placate 
and worship an artificial and heterogeneous pantheon has its positive 
and negative values as they have assisted them in their efforts at adapta- 
tion. The Kharwars have their tribal deity, Jalamukhi, and every 
Kharwar village in Dudhi has an improvised shed in the midst of 
fields where they propitiate the goddess, who is known to be extremely 
susceptible to neglect or remissness. Raja Lokshman is another of 
their tribal heroes who now claims a cult. The older generation of 
Kharwars identified Lakshman with the brother of Ramchandra, the 
exiled prince of Ayodhya, but the younger Kharwars recognise in him 
their Rajput progenitor who is believed to be the son of jfaichandra, 
King of Kanauj, round whom many historical myths had grown. 

The Korwas have lost the traditional beliefs in their indigenous 
pantheon, but their helplessness has encouraged adoption of many 



THE KORWA3 61 

alien gods and spirits, whose one avowed object the Korwas believe 
is to chastise them with affliction, both physical and mental. Even 
beneficent gods are required to be propitiated for real or imaginary 
troubles .and the Cheros have a monopoly of such religious lore, as 
the Korwas themselves acknowledge. 'One good man 5 , said an 
elderly Korwa of Kundpan to me, 'cannot do anything against a host 
of evil-doers and that is why Raja Chandol has become powerless.' 
'Nobody wishes us well,' eloquently interjected a second Korwa, 
'and the Chero Baiga has raised the spirits of dead ancestors and mis* 
chievous persons to set them against our person and property, even 
our cattle and sheep.' c We ask them why these spirits inflict disease 
and sufferings on us, what offence have we committed against them 
or our neighbours to deserve such attention, but the answer we get is 
a prescription to placate this or the other spirit, and if we fail to follow 
the advice tendered by the Baiga, we go to our doom. We don't want 
our children to die before us, to starve in our presence, so we cater to 
the caprices of an unseen world, yet fail to maintain a cordial rela- 
tionship with them.' These are typical comments by the Korwas. 

The tribal and clan gods and spirits are worshipped by the head 
of the family or by the tribal elders and these have little to do with 
the baigas who are usually Chero by tribe. The Korwas do riot offer 
any animal sacrifices to their clan gods and spirits, but they would 
most certainly offer them to alien gods and spirits at the direction of 
the Chero Baiga. The clan gods are usually beneficent and the Korwas 
are not much afraid of them but alien spirits and gods must be pro- 
pitiated by the choicest offerings and animal blood is the best that 
can be offered to them. 

In any tribal society where the gods and spirits have been multi- 
plied enormously it is a problem to make them accountable for the 
various ills people suffer from, yet the jurisdiction of each spirit or 
nature power has to be cleverly demarcated in order that people may 
be persuaded to appeal to them as occasion arises. In Dudhi, the 
Cheros have carried this business of creating godheads and spiritual 
beings too far with the result that even the forests have been divided 
among several of these spirits. One is in charge of a hill pass or an 
entrance to the forest, another has its abode on a particular tree, a 



6 THE FORtCJtfES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

third has his jurisdiction clearly outlined by trees, a fourth moves from 
corner to corner of the forest, one is responsible for fires within the 
forest, one sits on the head of cattle and goads them to the forest where 
they are devoured by the tiger spirit or are drowned in water. 

Every disease has its presiding spirit, one resides in the Banka 
hill, another in the village mortuary, a third afflicts people with pox, 
a fourth is the twin sister of the spirit presiding over village grove, 
both of whom need be propitiated during the epidemic season or when 
a disease begins to take its toll in the village. The Mata or the goddess 
known to preside over epidemics and pox in the Hindu village has 
various counterparts among the tribal people. In Dudhi the various 
aspects of destruction are represented by Kodma Mata, Angar Mata, 
Jalni Mata, Budi Mata, Rakti Bhowani, Sakti Bhowani, Kachni Bhowani, 
Atbhuja Devi, Phulmati and others. When the Chero Baiga fails to 
redress immediate grievances he may invent new agencies of infliction, 
and often the name of the spirit and its role are pure fabrications to 
suit the demands of an exacting and anxious clientele. All these 
touch the fringe of Korwa life to-day, as they have ceased to think 
about them and merely follow prescriptions without expecting any 
spectacular result. It has therefore devolved on the Chero Baiga 
to develop a complicated pattern of worship and propitiation, elaborate 
in conception and minute in details, to convince the Korwas and other 
tribal people in Dudhi of its usefulness, so that their prescriptions 
may have some psychological effect on the minds of the afflicted. 
A Korwa woman, an elderly duenna who was sitting by my side 
while I was interrogating the Chero Baiga, interjected in good humour, 
'the Baiga knows so much about the spirit world that he fails to spot 
the real source of trouble'. Turning to me with a suggestive gesture 
she said, 'They really do not know anything.' The Baiga, however, 
believes in parallelogram of forces and thus succeeds in restoring 
confidence when it is deeply shaken. 

The tranquil despair of the Korwas has already produced a 
parabolic change in their attitude to religious beliefs and practices. 
Like other cognate tribes of the Munda ethnic group, the Korwas 
believed in an impersonal mysterious force, a Bonga or Mana which is 
^ power, a source of all power patent as well as latent in persons and 



THEKORWAS 63 

things. This gave in to a pantheon of gods and spirits conceived as 
a sort of indefinite hierarchy with Raja Chandol as the supieme 
authority, the court of appeal for the Korwas. This pantheon has 
been enormously enlarged in proportion to their disappointment and 
failure to adapt themselves to changed economic situation, till it has 
again tended to become nebulous, slowly thinning out to become a 
vague power, uncertain in its attitude and uncanny in its relations 
with them. .. 

The ancestors are regarded with great consideration by the 
Korwas. Their loss of faith in tribal and clan gods and in those who 
have been freely imported into their pantheon has not shaken their 
trust and obligation to the shades of the departed, and every Korwa 
family shelters its ancestors in the house and offers them libations 
and sacrifices at regular intervals. The ancestors are believed to 
protect them from calamities, save them from ferocious animals, 
warn them of impending crisis, cement family and clan solidarity. 

Some of their ancestors are conceived as beneficent gods while 
there are others who are mischievous, depending on the nature of death 
they had succumbed to, for example, the Bagahut and the Balsodhok', 
one is the spirit of people killed by tigers, the other the spirit of children 
still-born or prematurely cut off from life. These are greatly dreaded 
by the Korwas, for they believe that as their death has been unnatural 
their relations with the survivors must necessarily be anti-social. 
In other tribal areas the tiger spirit has a cult addressed to it, but 
not so among the Korwas. Yet, the Korwas believe that the evil 
spirits often overpower the good ones and use them for nefarious 
ends, and to avoid them the Korwas protect themselves by placing 
thorns on the route through which the bier is carried and stones in 
circle round the spot where the body is cremated or buried. The 
bodies of people who die of snake-bite, of pox, of plague are not cre- 
mated or buried according to tribal rites, but are thrown into caves 
or gorges in distant hills or into flowing streams. Like the Hos and 
cognate tribes the Korwas sit down to divine the cause of death as also 
to find out what shape or form the disengaged soul may have taken, 
but their interest in these matters is very much on the wane and I 
did not hear of any seance during my visit to the JCorwa settlements, 



64 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

There are a host of festivals observed by the tribal population 
in Dudhi. The chief festival is the Karma which is held in the 
month of Bhadon. A branch of the Karma tree (anthocephalus 
cadamba) is ceremonially cut by the young men of the village in the 
presence of the Baiga who offers arua rice and a cock, the blood of which 
is dropped on the rice and the whole dedicated to the clan gods, 
ancestor spirits and all others who constitute the tribal pantheon. The 
Karma branch is then brought in procession to the courtyard of a 
village elder where it is fixed to the accompaniment of drums and 
cymbals, and under the Karma tree, men and women dance night 
and day. sing Karma songs and regale themselves by liberal doses 
of liquor available cheap in the village. 

The other festival is that of serpent worship which the Chero 
Baiga performs on behalf of the tribal people. The Gaurahi Puja 
in which the cattle are ceremonially worshipped by every householder 
also has its votaries, but the Korwas usually do not interest themselves 
in an> festival other than the Karma. The Hinduised tribes like the 
-Majhwars and Kharwars observe a number of feasts, the most im- 
portant being the harvesting ceremony, when the new crop is prepared 
for cooking and ceremonially dedicated to the ancestral spirits and 
clan gods. 

Thus the cycle of life among the Korwas as among other tribal 
-groups is characterised by a system of social observances which include 
all the ceremonies and rites connected with pregnancy, birth, name 
giving, cutting hair for the first time, boring the ear, tattooing, mutila- 
tions and cicatrices, puberty, marriage and betrothal ceremonies which 
require the smooth and efficient co-operation of the different units of the 
society. These have undergone considerable changes with greater com- 
plexity and higher expectation of life along with the change in the 
material environment. Among the Korwas, a lack of interest in life and 
all that it connotes has engendered a social solidarity and a passivity 
which are both ill adapted to the present day conditions and it is no 
wonder that they have developed a sense of despair and frustration* 



THE THARUS 

WHILE the Korwas represent the most primitive element in 
the population of the United Provinces and a culture that is 
facing disorganisation and disintegration, the Tharus on the other 
hand represent the most interesting of the tribes and exhibit a vitality 
that has helped them to tide ovei various crises and to adapt them- 
selves to changed and a changing economic environment. The 
Korwas have withdrawn themselves from contacts; the Tharus have 
thrown their lot deliberately with the people that surround them. 
The fear of strangers, the horror of the magic of their neighbours 
have transfoimed the Korwas into an inbreeding endoga mo us group; 
the knowledge of magic, sorcery and w itchcraft have made the Tharus 
dreadful people, yet they have constantly revitalised their blood by 
exogamous marriages, which to-day, as it was in earlier days, is the 
most popular means of securing wives among them. 

Descriptive accounts of the Tharus have been given by J. N. 
Nesfield, Rev. S. Knowles, E. T. Atkinson, H. R. Nevill and Sir William 
Crooke. Recently A. C. Turner has summarised the changes that 
have taken place in the Tharu culture as a result of their contacts 
mainly with their Hindu neighbours (1931 Census Report, U. P.). 
While in other parts contacts with advanced cultures have disinte- 
grated tribal cultures, among the Tharus a careful process of selective 
adoption of traits and customs from neighbouring cultures has secured 
for them a stability* while they have emphasised the useful element of 
the indigenous cultural pattern. The Tharus represent to-day a 
culture that has been built up in response to their material needs but 
largely influenced by the attitude of their neighbours to their culture 
pattern. Much that has already been written, therefore, needs a re- 
assessment in the light of the new values, attitudes and aspirations 
which are already manifest in the propaganda literature that the 
reformist Tharus themselves are putting forward. 

The total Tharu population as recorded in the 1931 census is 
77,021 of which 40,288 are males and 36,733 females (Census of 
India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt. II, p. 523), The distribution of the Tharus 



66 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

province-wise is as follows: Bengal 482, Bihar and Orissa 37,338 and 
U.P. 31,578. In the Naini Tal district alone there are about 30,000 
Tharus and 6,000 Bhoksas, a cognate tribe most probably an earlier 
offshoot of the main body of the Tharus found in this area. The 
Naini Tal Tharus are found in Bilhari, Nanakmata, Kilpuri and 
Tanakpur. The majority, however, are found in the Khatima 
Tehsil which includes the whole of Bilhari Perganah, and part of old 
Nanakmata, part of Kilpuri and Tanakpur. In Kheri district in the 
U.P., the Tharus inhabit the northern areas bordering Nepal from 
Bilraian to Bankati and even beyond. They are found on either 
side of the river Sarda, in British India and Nepal. The 1941 
census put the strength of the Tharus in the U.P. as 22,381 and 
in Bihar 38,982. The defection could probably be traced to 
Hinduisation. 

The Bhoksas are the nearest kins of the Tharus. There is little 
doubt that they belong to the same ethnic stock and it is perhaps true 
that both of these groups had come to the Tarai at the same time. 
The little difference in their culture should be attributed to the pro- 
cess of tribal transformation which must have taken place in their 
present habitat. It is also possible that the Bhoksas abandoned their 
tribal religion and joined the ranks of Hinduism, w r hile the Tharus 
.still keep to their age-long traditions and ancient beliefs and cults. 
The myths and stories about their origin, the traditions the people 
still remember do not give any clue to their affiliation or difference. 
The Bhoksas say that they came from Dakshin or the south; some among 
them believe that they have come from Delhi; still others that they 
were Panwar Rajputs and under Udayjit came to live at Bonbasa on 
the Sarda. Udayjit rendered valuable services to the Raja of Kumaon 
who gave him shelter. We shall discuss this aspect of their prehistory 
in another connection. 

Culturally the Bhoksas are not more advanced than the Tharus 
though they engage Brahmins to officiate in their marriages and put 
on the sacred thread like caste people. The adoption of the worship 
of Satyanarayan by the Bhoksas and employment of Hindu priests 
to officiate for them has raised their social status and the Brahmins 
to-dav do not refuse water from their hands, The Tha,rus allow 



TrtARtJS 67 

divorce and remarriage of widows, the Bhoksas look down upon such 
practices. The Tharus are a devil-ridden people, have oaths and 
ordeals in plenty, arid much of their disputes are settled through 
them, but the Bhoksas have apparently lost faith in such expedients. 
Witchcraft is a special proficiency of the Tharus and so great is the 
belief in their magical powers that others who come to trade with them 
dare not come too near their villages. The Bhoksas do believe in 
magic and witchcraft, but they do not practise these arts. They 
leave them to the Tharus who are consulted in times of crisis. In 
some areas the Bhoksas are known to intermarry with Tharus. The 
Kilpuri Bhoksas, for example, freely marry Tharu girls and the 
distinction between the two tribes in this area is neither clear nor 
insisted on by the tribes concerned. 

The traditions about their origin which the Tharus remember 
and recite are not uniform. Most of these refer to the connection the 
Tharus had with the Rajputs of Northern India who have been the 
reputed progenitors of most of the Hinduised sections of the primitive 
substratum of population in India. Risley has described the various 
processes of tribal transformation and has shown how in all these 
processes the historical element has been supplied by the Rajput 
clans of Northern India who were believed to wander about and take 
shelter in inaccessible and even inhospitable regions to escape the lot 
of serfs and slaves in their native land, as the Muslims began to reduce 
one after another the independent Rajput principalities of Central 
and Northern India. A few traditions and explanations given by the 
Tharus about their origin may be briefly mentioned. 

The name 'Tharu 5 is said to be derived from their residence in 
the Tarai. 'Thar' in the tribal dialect means '2 jungle', so a Tharu 
is one who resides in forests, 'a forestman'. The name Tharu is 
derived by some from 'Thar', desert in Rajputana, from where they 
trace their ancestors. The tremendous influence of sorcery and witch- 
craft wielded by the Tharus is derived from their knowledge of a large 
stock of formulae and incantations believed to be found in the 
Atharva Veda which made the Tharus popularly known as 'Athafti', 
corrupted to 'Tharu', their present designation. Others trace the 
name Tharu from 'Tharua' meaning to paddle about in the hills, 



68 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

(a paddler) the reference being to the nomadic life of the Tharus and 
their custom of marriage by capture. 

There is a volume of opinion regarding the Maharashtra origin 
of the Tharus. The Tharu reform sabha traces this affiliation on the 
basis of the presence in their country of a large number of Maharashtra 
castes. The Rajput origin is believed to be from the Sisodiya clan 
(1303 A.D.) and Jaimal, Fatesingh and Tarran Singh are believed to 
be the ancestors of the Tharus. Sherring (Hindu Tribes and Castes, 
Vol. I) refers to the influence of the Tharus in earlier days. 
Buchanon (Eastern India, Vol. II) refers to the expulsion of the Gurkhas 
from Magadha by the Tharus who 'are said to have descended from 
the hills and extended themselves over every part north of the Ghagra 
at least 5 . The Tharus themselves deny their Nepali origin. Even 
if the Tharus have not come from Nepal, their intermixture with the 
Nepalese cannot be denied. In the winter months, Nepalese and 
hillmen come down from the hills to live in the Bhabar and certain 
areas in the Tarai. They come either alone or with their families 
and cattle, build improvised huts in the forest, clear the trees and live 
as lumbermen or by serving the Tharu families. Some husk rice 
for the latter and are popularly known as 'Dhan Kuttas'; others live 
by cattle raising or by trading in salt, hides and potatoes. 

That the Tharus are a mixed people of this there is not the 
slightest doubt. The Tharus themselves claim Rajput parentage on 
their mother's side. The dominance of women in the Tharu country 
is explained by the tradition that the Tharus are offsprings of mixed 
marriages between Rajput women and their servants, Saises and 
Chamars, with whom they fled into the jungks to escape the invading 
Muslim armies who killed the king and his men, their husbands and 
relations. This tradition is supported by them on the ground that 
women have better physical features than men. They are fairer, 
more graceful and they are so conscious of this fact that they have 
consistently upheld the ban on the liberties of their menfolk in spite 
of contacts with outsiders and the gradual progress they have made in 
their cultural life. The economic independence of the women 
among the Tharus is advanced as further argument for their mixed 
descent. It may be a cause as well as a consequence, but the position 



THE THARtJS 6 

of women is certainly an important fact which needs to be 
explained. 

The Tharu women have a dominant position in their society. 
They form 90 per cent, of the crowd in the markets and fairs. They 
move about freely, even smoke and drink, in the bazaar. Fishing is 
a feminine occupation and outdoor activity such as marketing produce, 
buying and selling, business negotiations are also done by women. 
The Tharu women do not allow their husbands to touch food or even 
enter the chouka (kitchen) . They do not allow the men to touch the 
pots in which water for drinking is stored. They are expert painters 
and decorators; they paint pictures and scenes depicting fights and 
warriors on horseback. They fish and hunt, the men cany the traps 
and receptacles. In the census report of the U.P. (1931) further 
peculiarities of the Tharu women are recorded. While caste women 
proceed to the fields very early in the morning and have a meal at 
midday and work till the evening, the Tharu women go to their fields 
after a good meal corresponding to the English bieakfast. At midday 
they eat some grains and then return home in turn to prepare the 
evening meal for their menfolk. They thus work two to three hours 
less than the women of other tribes and castes. Again, Tharu women 
unlike other women do not carry paddy seedlings to the fields which 
is done by the men. Other women carry them on their head thus 
saving the expense of a labourer or two. Local landlords did their 
utmost to change these conditions, but rather than change their mode 
of life the Tharus chose to leave the fields altogether. The result 
was an emigration of the Tharus to Nepal and the adjacent 
parts where they live by agriculture or by engaging themselves as 
labourers. 

The Tharu tribal code definitely lays down the share of each 
sex in the property and belongings of the tribe. Women are the sole 
proprietors of domestic pets, poultry, cattle and the produce of the 
kitchen garden. They can dispose of these in any way they like and can 
use the income for their own personal needs. On one occasion a 
Tharu was tempted to sell a cock to my peon who was collecting 
provisions for me in the Tanakpur area. The Tharu brought the 
bird covered all the way to deliver it personally to my cook and 



76 THE FORTUNES Otf PRIMITIVE 

realised the price for it. It was not the usual price he charged, he most 
certainly included in it consideration for his labour and the mental 
worry involved in appropriating someone else's property as I came to 
know later on. In the evening all the villagers were invited by me to 
my tent for a demonstration of Tharu dance and music. The wife 
who owned the cock was also an expected visitor. When the villagers 
started for my camp, the man who had sold the cock ran up to my 
camp before the others arrived and demanded the bird back. My 
cook did not realise the implications of this demand^ and began to 
howl at the man threatening him with dire consequences should he 
persist in his efforts to recover the bird. Fortunately the cock was 
n6t meant for dinner that night, and this lease of life saved the Tharu 
from an abject exposure before the villagers. I was attracted by the 
paileys and enquired from the Tharu what his grievance was. He 
narrated the story of his discomfiture., how he had sinned against his 
wife and how he wanted to make amends for it. I ordered the release 
of the bird and the return of the 'prodigal ward 5 at once made his 
frightened face beam and a glow was seen in his small covered eyes. 
What would have been a very delicate situation was avoided and a 
domestic quarrel which might have broken the ties of their marital 
life was averted. 

While the women have their belongings, the men have their 
bird-traps, ploughs, oil presses, the rewards of their manual labour 
and the produce of their fields. Even if they own these they are not 
free to dispose of them as they please for they dare not ignore the 
women's advice. Ill-treatment of husbands by wives is frequent in 
the Tharu country and very often the aggrieved husband has to 
approach the Bharara (tribal priest) and through him offer prayers 
and sacrifices to their gods and goddesses for redress of his sufferings. 
The women are often seen as hard task masters and their direction of 
the activities of their menfolk is not always above reproach. But 
men have accustomed themselves to the ways of their women, and 
have adapted themselves to the conditions of life, yet the jealousies 
and suspicions their women excite in them find expression in their 
belief in magic and witchcraft and in the various protective devices, 
Charms and amulets which aim at securing for them a decent 



THE THARUS 71 

livelihood and domestic bliss- a rare privilege of Tharu family 
life. . 

Writing about the physiognomy of the Tharu, Nesfield wrote 
that the tribe had acquired a slightly Mongolian cast which shows 
itself chiefly, but not to a striking degree, in slanting eyes and high 
cheek bones. This he traced to intermarriages which have taken place 
within the last two or three centuries. But the description he gives 
of the average Tharu does not seem to be correct. He writes, "They 
(the Tharus) have long wavy hair, a dark, almost a black complexion 
and as much hair on their face and body as is usual with other natives 
of India. In stature, build, and gait they are distinctly Indian and not 
Mongolian; nor have they any traditions which connect their origin 
with Nepal." Risley recorded evidence of Mongoloid traits among 
the Tharus, and Knowles found the Mongolian style of feature 
predominant among them. According to Crooke "the most probable 
explanation based on the available evidence seems to be that the 
Tharus are originally a Dravidian race who by alliance with Nepalese 
and other hill races have acquired some degree of Mongolian physiog- 
nomy". That the Tharus have Mongoloid features of this there is 
hardly any doubt. Their eyes are more or less oblique, their com- 
plexion mostly brown or yellow-brown, the hair on the body and face 
very scanty and straight, their noe thin and of medium size while 
other features affiliate them more with the Nepalese than with Aus- 
traloid or Pre-Dravidian tribes or castes. The Tharus therefore appear 
to be a Mongoloid people who have succeeded in assimilating non- 
Mongoloid features. 

To the north of the Tharu country and to the north-west over 
the whole of the cis-Himalayan region we find the Khasas and the 
non- Mongoloid features found among the Tharus, and which are traced 
by them to the Rajputs, may originally be due to the Khasas. 

Although the Tharu women possess a number of privileges 
which are usually denied to women of other tribes and castes and 
they are handsomer than men, the suggestion of a Rajput strain 
through the females is not easy to prove, unless we take the term 
'Rajput' as a generic name for all those people who belong to the 
'martial races' or who have distinguished themselves as warriors or 



72 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

fighters. Many women among them resemble Khasa women of the 
Dehra Dun district and beyond, though the latter possess a slightly 
higher stature and the former a Mongolian twist in the eyes. While 
the Khasas have mixed with the Mongolians but have largely main- 
tained their blood against infusion of Dom or aboriginal blood, the 
Tharus seem to have shared both the Khasa and the Dom infiltration. 
Besides, the cultural life of the Tharu do not suggest any superimposi- 
tion of a higher culture on their indigenous pattern of life and living 
and those that appear alien are the result of contacts with foreign 
elements in the local population. Further, in cases of mixture between 
a higher and an inferior race, a sort of hypergamy is practised and 
endogamy develops after a jus connubii is effected. For a time only 
hypergamous marriages are allowed till the barriers become rigid 
enough to bar any further intermixture. That may have been the 
cause of the origin of a large number of endogamous groups in India, 
it is also the case in other countries where such mixture has taken 
place. The frequent marital raids of the Tharus to Nepal from where 
they secure their supply of women do not support the contention of 
the comparative purity of race among the Tharus nor do the women 
of the tribe prefer marriages with caste people among whom they 
live. 

The other plausible explanation of the dominance of women 
among the Tharus may be the natural aversion of men to do any work 
as is found generally among some Mongoloid stock. The Mongolian 
is often found to be sluggish, weak, irresponsible arid unwilling 
worker and in many areas they live on the labours of their wives. 
This may have pushed the Tharu men into the background while the 
women have assumed greater and greater responsibility in domestic 
life, till to-day they wield considerable influence over their menfolk. 
But this explanation does not seem to be enough, for responsibility in 
domestic life may not result in undue importance of the womenfolk. 
The Tharus unlike many other Mongoloid tribes arc a strong people. 
They are excellent cultivators and will till 'about four times as much 
land as a plainsman* in the same neighbourhood. The dominance 
of women, their rights to property, their maltreatment of their 
husbands, their active rdlc in fishing, the chase and in business negotia- 



THE THARUS 73 

tions, their liberty in choosing their partners and annulling marriages, 
all these reproduce conditions of a matriarchal society. The Khasas 
with whom the Tharus have mixed also show vestiges of a matriarchal 
matrix. So it is possible that in the Tarai arid the Himalayan region, 
among the aboriginal Tharus or among the isolated I ndo- Aryans, the 
Khasas and the Kumaonese, a matriarchal society existed which has 
profoundly influenced the culture patterns of the Khasa as well as of 
the Tharu. 

Anthropometrical investigations with blood group tests may 
throw some light on the raciology of the Tharus. They may indicate 
the degree of racial miscegenation if nothing else. With this end in 
view, I measured nearly 300 Tharus and tested an equal number of 
blood samples from the various Tharu localities of the province. 
Besides the racial significance of these investigations, blood groups 
may tell us something about the genetic equilibrium of the tribe and 
their influence on disease, pathology and crime. 

The Tharus and the Bhoksas living as they do in a malarious and 
unhealthy country have been popularly known as immune from 
malarial infection. As early as 1904, Mr. H. R. Nevill mentioned 
this fact in the District Gazetteer of Naini Tal. 'From habituation, 5 he 
writes, 'and from a long course of natural selection, the Tharus have 
become almost immune from the deadly malarial fever of the Tarai. 
It is not true as is usually asserted that they never suffer from 
fever, but it is an undoubted fact that they are able to live and flourish 
in a climate which is generally fatal to emigrants from other 
districts.' 

The Tharus suffer from an eye disease called trachoma, which 
is found in an endemic form. Boys and girls, otherwise handsome and 
healthy, have their eyes mostly affected with trachoma and often the 
pupil is seen dilated and even bulging out adding to the volume of 
the eyefolds. The Tharus were also the subject of a report by 
Stott and Mukerjee about 30 years ago (1910) and their immunity 
more or less was recognised by the Public Health Department of 
the U.P. 

How far malaria is selective would be an interesting inquiry. 
Some correlation between malaria and blood groups has been 

10 



74 THE FORTUNES OP PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

observed by Russian scientists* . The Tarai as we have already men- 
tioned above is notorious for the incidence of malaria and yet there are 
people who live and thrive in the unhealthy and inhospitable climate 
of the Tarai. People who are not habituated to the climate suffer 
from malaria and in some parts like Chandanchowki, Dudhwa, 
Bonbasa and Tanakpur, the incidence of malaria is very high. In 
Bonbasa where the headworks of the Sarda Canal lie, the incidence 
of malaria amonp the labour population is so high that the authorities 
had to devise methods to protect the labourers from malarial infection. 
Not only a regular dose of quinine was systematically given to the 
people, a big living shed with wire gauze fencing was constructed 
and as soon as the labourers finished their daily routine duties, they 
were made to enter the house and remain there till next morning 
when they would again be harnessed to their work. Those that 
chafed at this preventive measure were forcibly put into the shed 
and locked inside, an arrangement, how r ever cruel it might look, 
necessary in the interest of the work and also of the workers. 

Malaria is one big single cause of depopulation in many parts 
of the country and of loss of vitality in the population, but in the Tarai 
among the Tharus the ravage? of the disease have been insignificant 
compared to those in other parts of India. Onions and garlic in 
large quantities in their diet are considered to be the cause of 
immunity from malaria by some, while others claim their immunity 

from their habitual cleanliness and the full meal they always get. 
It is difficult either to accept or reject these explanations, but even 

if they are true, similar immunity must develop elsewhere among 
people who suffer from malaria. 

In fact, the Tharus have not developed an absolute immunity 
from malaria. The Tharu children suffer from the disease as much 
as other children. I should think that 90 per cent, of these Tharu 
children show their spleens in no uncertain manner. But as they 
grow the spleen gradually subsides and finally become normal and 
by the age of 12 to 15 the Tharu children develop an immunity. This 
experience of mine has been corroborated by medical officers of health 
who have woikccl among the Tharus as well as by the local people 
* Wiener. Blood Groups and Blood Transfusion (1939), pp, 245 " 



BLOOD GROUP MAP OF THE U.P. 



BLOOD GROUP DISTRIBUTION 
IN THE 

United Provinces, 

to 3. and 5 to 9 (Majumdar) 
4 (Malone and Lahlrl ) 




tHE TttARtfS 



75 



who know them so well. The blood group percentages are given 
below : 








A 


B 


AB 


B+AB 


Thar us Male and female (241) 


27.1 


17.0 


37.5 


18.4 


55.9 


Tharu females (82) 


25.6 


13.4 


42.7 


18.3 


61.0 



Evidently the Tharus show a very high incidence of AB which 
I should think is larger than that obtained for any Indian caste or 
tribe except the Tibetans who live in the north-east of India. Even 
the Tibetans do not show as high a percentage of (B+AB) as the 
Tharus. Should we, therefore, conclude that this high AB (also B) 
among the Tharus may have given them an immunity from malaria? 
While measuring the Tharus I found a number of them suffering 
from fever. I noted their number in the register and discovered 
later that most of those belonged to group A v-hile 78 p.c. of the 
(B+AB) group on enquiry said that they were not habitual victims 
of malarial infection. This, however, may be a mere coincidence 
but it may also indicate some con elation that may exist between 
blood groups and malaria. (Nature: 1943, September). 

The high incidence of B+AB may mean that O and A are 
disappearing by the selective action of the environment leaving 
B+AB to multiply. This is not surprising when we remember how 
the Negroes of the south (in America) who were used to a warmer 
climate when driven to the north succumbed to pulmonary diseases 
and that this is one big single cause of depopulation . of the native 
population in America. 

As already mentioned, the Tharus derive themselves from a 
mixture of Rajputs and Nepalese, some say from Rajput women and 
their menials, Saises and Chamirs. The Chamars do not possess a Mon- 
golian cast of face and Rajputs do not have epicanthric folds in 
their eyes, but the Tharus have both. Besides, the Rajputs of Nor- 
thern India have a high A value and less B, and it is very difficult 
to explain the very low incidence of A among the Tharus unless we 
suppose that the B+AB group has succeeded in acclimatising them- 
selves while A has not. The large incidence of B+AB may both be 



76 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

the cause and eflect of a process of inbreeding and as people with 
B+AB appear to have developed an immunity from malaria, 
the Tharus as a group now are more immune than other groups in 
the neighbourhood. This, however, needs to be corroborated by 
blood groups data from other malarial districts in different parts of 
India. Wiener reported the results obtained by certain Russian 
investigators which indicate that the individuals of group O are less 
likely to contract malaria than individuals of group AB or group B. 
It must be mentioned here that the two groups B & AB arc infre- 
quently met with in Russia and the percentage of O is greater there 
than B and AB. But the Tharu data show a high B+AB value and 
also that persons with the B & AB group suffer less from malaria 
than O or A. 

I do not think that such divergent results are necessarily in- 
consistent, for the climatic conditions in one part may afford immunity 
to those of a particular group, while another" set of climatic conditions 
may favour a different blood group in its struggle for adaptation. 
As a fact, all reported correlations between blood groups and diseases 
could not be corroborated by further investigations.* I should think 
that hasty interpretation of results based on small samples is perhaps 
responsible for this and I would plead for an extensive blood 
group investigation before we admit negative results. The large 
percentage of B among the Tharus can be compared with similar 
percentage among the artisan castes in the cis-Himalayan region, 
who have received much Khasa blood. A high incidence of B has 
been found to be a characteristic of all mixed peoples or hybrid 
groups. 

Anthropometric data were collected from both the sexes, from 
191 men and 182 women, and the results have been statistically 
reduced. The cephalic index of the Tharu male is 72.4, and 72.6 
for the Tharu female. The nasal index is 75.9 for males and 77.4 
for females, all constants calculated from the mean values. The 
Tharus, therefore, are a dolichocephalic and mesorhine people. The 
Mongolians have been characterised by brachycephaly and many 
writers have explained brachycephaly in Bengal from Mongolian 

* Wiener, Blood Groups and Blood Transfusions (1939) pp. 246, 



tHfe fHARUfc 7? 



infusion and in Bombay from Scythian intermixture, the latter being 
known as an offshoot of the Mongolian stock. The Tharus aie 
Mongoloid but dolichocephalic, and the low values obtained for their 
cephalic measurements show the insignificant role of brachycephals 
among the Tharus. The women have a flatter nose than men and the 
alleged Rajput descent from the side of their womenfolk appears to 
be a myth. The average stature of the Tharu males is 163.33.377 
while that of woman is 15 1.1 3 .431. 

From the standard deviations of the various physical measure- 
ments it does not appear that the Tharus represent a greatly mixed 
type, though from their indefinite physical traits a certain amount of 
mixture cannot be denied. The S.D. for head length is 5.78.296, 
head breadth 4.38.230, nasal length 3*57.180, nasal breadth 
2.39.122, stature 5.22.267. It is therefore probable that the 
various elements that have entered into the constitution of the Tharu 
physical type were not widely dissimilar. 

The anthropometric data" obtained from the Tharus are ex- 
tremely significant as they do not uphold the popular beliefs about 
their racial composition. Anthropologists have assumed that all 
Mongolians are brachycephals, but a sample survey of pockets of 
Mongolian or Mongoloid stocks would show that a large proportion 
of them are dolichocephals, even highly so. Another fact that emerges 
from the* anthropometric data is the absence of any scientific evidence 
of Rajput origin of the Tharu females. The predominant position 
held by Tharu women cannot be due to their superior extraction as 
is claimed by them. Overwhelming emphasis must now be given to 
the matriarchal matrix of Tharu culture which appears to be amply 
borne out by similar social status enjoyed by the women in the cis- 
Himalayan region. 

The Tharus live by agriculture aided by fishing and occasional 
hunting in the forests; cultivation is the main occupation. Of the 
13,000 earners, male and female, in the NainiTal district, no less than 
10,000 returned themselves as agriculturists. Though agriculture is 
the most important method of securing subsistence and has become the 
pivot of their economic life, yet the whole of their life is not woven 
round this important economic pursuit. Hunting and particularly 



?8 tH tfORTtfNfcS Otf PRIMITIVE 



fishing are regarded as important links between the gaps provided 
by agriculture from sowing to harvesting and to the next sowing 
season. The beliefs and rites connected with hunting and fishing 
receive adequate recognition and are followed with considerable 
unanimity by the people and success as a hunter or as an expert fisher 
makes a Tharu justifiably proud just as a successful agricultural season 
makes him eager to display his produce. The satisfaction of the 
economic needs docs not exhaust the desire for food production among 
the Tharus, for there are certain customs which are primarily social 
and do not appear to be dictated by the economic need of reciprocity 
or mutuality of obligations. 

Hospitality as a social trait is a feature of the culture of many 
savage groups,, though its utility from the economic point of view 
may be questioned. The savage who produces plenty and who needs 
no supply from his clansman also desires that he should be invited by 
his villager or clansman to a sumptuous dinner and he himself would 
like to treat his own kinsmen or his village mate in the same way. 
The Tharus, those of them who are substantial, love to entertain their 
friends and pride themselves as hosts. Incase the financial prospects aie 
gloomy due to loss of crops or the failure of the rains,, they like many 
other primitive groups in India pray for the coming harvesting season 
so that they may think of their friends and kinsmen. While the Tharu 
women return from their daily fishing round,, several of them often 
pool their catch and decide to cook a common meal and the men are 
sent for to join in the pot luck. 

The Tharus do more hunting than the Bhoksas, but usually 
it takes the form of periodical excursions into the foiest at a time 
when they are free from their work in the fields. There is no magical 
beliefs among them connecting success in hunting with agricultural 
prosperity as is found among the Oraons of Chota Nagpur, and 
therefore little organised or ceremonial hunting is done. Occasionally 
they may be seen to stalk deer or shoot birds or other game and they 
may be seen with a big net (khaber) going to the heart of the forest 
and laying it on the tracks of big animals who when entangled in it 
can seldom escape. They may also be seen with the kurkia or the 
khandia which they use for catching birds. Sometimes two or more 



THE THARUS 79 

villages spontaneously join and form hunting bands which at times 
are very successful. 

When they come home with a big catch of pig, deer, rabbit 
and fowls in plenty, they distribute them to all the village people irres- 
pective of caste or complexion. I have often seen the Tharu hunters 
go without their own share. Often they discuss their achievements 
with the crowd that gather round them while someone from 'the crowd, 
self-appointed, distributes the fish among the clansmen. The admira- 
tion the hunter receives from the display of his skill and dexterity 
in hunting is enough impetus for his assiduous application to such 
pursuits. The hunting part) often includes women and very often 
the latter lead in the chase though the brunt of the labour falls oh the 
men. The pleasure, and I should think the pride, of women leading 
men to activities which should ordinarily be done by the latter sustain 
this practice and women take it as a diversion, the men being careful 
to see that no harm occurs to their womenfolk. * 

Fishing among the ThariiS: is an important subsidiary occupa- 
tion and is more popular than hunting. It is in fishing that men, 
women and children of a village come out in batches fully equipped 
with nets and traps and run headlong into the stream and enjoy the 
excitement of the game. Men and women in big rivets may be seen 
fishing in separate groups and there is hardly any fixed set of rules for 
fishing. The fishers usually carry the fishing tackle and also carry the 
-catch. Children often help the latter. Deep water fishing is 
$lone by men generally, and women find it more convenient to use the 
pakhaiya which is most effective in slow running water. Men Use 
different .kinds of nets such as patia or jal v hich arc not usually used 
by women, but both sexes use dhimri which is placed at the orifice or 
exit of water in a dam, so that water is allowed to pass out the fish 
remaining in the dhimri. The damming of water by bamboos and 
logs of wood and poisoning the water with poisonous wild berries and 
roots fpr catching fish in the Sarda river are being slowly given up. 
This method of fishing is, however, common among all the members 
of the Austiic race and the ingredients used for the purpose differ, 
according to the variation. *in the vegetation of the. locality. The 
daily routine, of 'Jharu women in Bankati, Ch^ndanchowki, Sonarpijr 



80 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

and the adjacent areas includes a fishing trip to the stagnant; pools 
and tanKs ^nd shallow depressions in their fields. where they collect 
their daily .requirements of fish. Men do not accompany them, 
neither do they carry the nets and receptacles for fish. It is only 
when large-scale fishing is organised in big rivers that the women are 
found to lead their menfolk into the enterprise. 

Agriculture like hunting and fishing is a mixed occupation among 
the Tharus and is done with meticulous care and considerable hard- 
ship. Methods of farming depend on soil, climate and the character 
of the people. In their efforts to eke out the maximum from the 
land the Tharus have shown a higher form of adaptability., ability 
and husbandry than the Korwas,, though their neighbours the Bhoksas 
have even excelled them. By application and experience they have 
learnt the risks and dangers of farming and herding and they know 
which of these are controllable and which are not. They know the 
troubles of keeping watch on distant lands and prefer to live near the 
plots. They know that certain crops Ike rice require constant irriga- 
tion and a plentiful supply of water and they utilise their practical 
experience in preserving water from distant streams or other natural 
or artifical sources. The important features connected with agricul- 
ture are 1. division of labour between the sexes; 2. the seasonal 
calendar; 3. daily routine; 4. land tenure; and 5. magical and religious 
practices connected with agriculture. 

Though women among the Tharus wield a dominant position 
in the domestic economy, yet a conventional division of labour between 
the sexes exists, though there is hardly any taboo limiting the activities 
of either. In agriculture, the principle of division has assumed a 
traditional importance and appears to be based on the understanding 
of the suitability or otherwise of the work for the different units of the 
society. Women do the weeding, harvesting, winnowing arid husking, 
children help men in repairing ridges or dams, in tending cattle, 
driving bullocks over the threshing Boor, while ploughing,, levelling 
and sowing are occupations for men. Some of the occupations are 
jointly done such as harvesting, but sowing is pre-eminently a man's 
occupation. I^could not get any reasonable explanation or defence 
of this custom from the Tharus, though among the.Hos and cognate 




of age 
md 




Tkarn of sty 

thy an 




for 
'lam she. 




do not help' A 
of Malaria. 









"I have seen life " 



profile 



THE THARUS 81 

tribes every farmer would be able to give an explanation or smile at 
our ignorance. Weeding is an occupation foi women which requires 
very careful watching and picking for which women have to stoop 
bending over the crops for hours foi days together. The work becomes 
mechanical after some time, but the weeders have to develop a pre- 
cision and maintain it till all the weeds are cleared to allow a healthy 
growth of the plants. This patience is more a virtue of women than of 
man. Winnowing and husking also requires similar patience as any 
carelessness would mean a loss of the anticipated yield. Watching 
of crops which involves keeping awake during the major part of the 
night and sleeping out in the fields in improvised leafy huts is gene r ally 
done by men. 

Although the Tharus are notorious for soicery and witchcraft., 
they are not themselves immune from the evil eye and the evil tongue. 
In spite of their best efforts and their knowledge of the unseen world, 
their crops suffer from pests and diseases, their granary is invaded by 
rats, their plants die, and the yield becomes inexplicably poor some- 
times. Birds and animals damage the crops, and the Tharus put up 
scarecrows and other devices. They ofter periodical sacrifices to their 
gods and propitiate the evil spirits whenever they suspect mischief 
from those quarters. All these, however, do not exhaust the precau- 
tions needed to ensure a bumper crop 01 a care-free routine life. 
'There are some people/ said an elderly Tharu, a village school 
teacher of Khatima, 'who are born with the evil e)e and the evil 
mouth. If they look at a field it deteriorates in its fertility. The 
crops do not flourish; if there is any crop at all it is poor. If they 
praise the growth of the plants that would mean the end of further 
growth; if they admire the sheaves of corn, they would not develop. 
If they praise a cow giving milk, either the calf will die or the animal 
will cease to give milk.' There is something wrong in the constitu- 
tion of these persons which makes them anti-social from their child- 
hood. Precautions must be taken against them and are taken. 

The other kind of evil influence is exerted by witches and 
sorcerors of whose exact modus operandi they are not very certain. 
Nevertheless these are greatly dreaded by the cultivators and must 
be counteracted by spells and incantations effectively rendered^, and 

11 



82 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

by sacrifices and propitiation of their pet spirits at every critical stage 
in the progress of the crop. The Bhararas can only di\ine the cause, 
but the sources of witchcraft, the spiiits or persons directly res- 
ponsible for such action are difficult to trace. That is why their pres- 
criptions are not always effective. A Bharara himself told me, 'Oursisa 
process of trial and error, and omnibus prescription to appease each 
and every spirit known to us unless, of course, it is an identified spirit 
01 witch as for example when the cattle die from some epidemic or 
disease we approach Nangartai or Darchandi, the reputed protector 
of cattle in the Tarai.' 

The Bhoksas have for some time past been engaging Pahari 
Brahmins to officiate in their ceremonies and worship-festivals; the 
Tharus approach them only when their Bhararas fail. It appears 
that the Pahaii Brahmins have two prescriptions, one for their clients 
the Bhoksa, the othei for the Tharu, and I was told in confidence by 
one such Brahmin that the Tharu would not care to accept his advice 
'if the god he (the Brahmin) names is not familiar or known to the 
Tharu.' It is therefore not in their known gods and spirits that the 
Tharus have lost confidence, it is in the manner of propitiating them 
or the prescriptions of the Bharara that their confidence seems to have 
been shaken. The reputation of the Pahari Brahmins, their appear- 
ance no less than their supposed austere life, 1 should think, the ignorance 
of the primitive Tharus of the real social and ceremonial life of these 
Brahmins and also the respect that their own Bhararas show to them, 
have contributed to the status of these Brahmins. The Tharu Bhararas 
are now seen to adopt the prescriptions and mariner of worship of 
alien gods to supplement their indigenous system. As it is, already 
the Pahari Brahmins have considerably influenced the cultural life 
of the Tharus though the latter unlike the Bhoksas have not publicly 
introduced the Brahmins to minister to their gods and those of others 
who are believed to cause disappointment to them. 

Still the Bharara among the Tharus and the Pahari Brahmin 
among the Bhoksa determine an auspicious day for the first ploughing 
of the field. He determines the method of propitiation, the sacrifices 
and the spirits or gods to whom they should be addressed. Among 
the Bhoksas,, the Pahari Brahmin performs a homa in the field and 



THE TriARUS 83 

also ceremonially sows a handful of seeds in some part of the field 
where a mark is made by him either by planting a stick or the branch 
of a tree. Occasionally an earthen pot with water and leaves of the 
tulsi plant is buried at a fixed spot and this is known only to the offi- 
ciating priest and the cultivator concerned. As this ceremony is 
performed after midnight .the secrecy is not difficult to maintain. 
What was originally a fertility cult has now been replaced by a thanks- 
giving service to the god supposed to preside over agriculture. 

This practice of midnight worship in the fields and the mysterious 
sowing of seeds by the Pahari Brahmin explain how alien traits can 
be incorporated into the pattern of a tribal culture. This is possible 
if the traits in question are conceived in the spirit of the culture con- 
cerned without which assimilation is difficult. The Bharara also 
determines the day for harvesting and it should always fall on a 
Monday,, Wednesday or Friday. When all these precautions have 
been taken,, the Tharus and Bhoksas believe that the evil eye and the 
witches and sorcerors cannot do much harm though their anxiety is 
not relieved till the year turns out successful. 

The important supplementary occupations of the Tharus are 
not many. Briefly they arc construction and repair of houses, making 
furniture,, household utensils, basketry, musical instruments, weapons, 
rope and mats, pottery and a little carpentry. Weaving, spinning 
and needlework form interesting diversions for the women but not 
regular routine work. There are local weavers who supply the needs 
of the Tharu and that is why the latter have begun to look down upon 
weaving as an occupation. This leads us to an important question 
about the attitude of these people to the occupations and professions 
and how far this attitude is or is not economically beneficial. 

So long as a tribe in India does not completely merge into the 
ranks of Hinduism,, it retains more or less its self-sufficiency so far as 
its economic needs arc concerned, and the Tharus though they are in 
the process of transformation do engage themselves in most of the 
occupations which are performed by different artisan castes in the 
Hindu social system. The incorporation of artisan castes in the 
indigenous economic organisation of the Thai us has increased and is 
certainly increasing thereby introducing new patterns and diverse 



84 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

textures into their otherwise simple economic life. This will necessarily 
lead to an interdependence of economic activities and perhaps a 
greater specialisation, but the result of this economic experiment 
will depend on the manner in which the subsidiary occupations are 
selected and carried on. 

Agriculture among the tribal people has not been specialised 
to any appreciable extent and there is little chance of any such special- 
isation in the immediate future among the Tharus. If they give up 
the subsidiary occupations and industries which have proved extremely 
useful to them simply because specialised workers can undertake 
them with greater advantage., the result is not likely to be beneficial 
for them. The introduction of artisan elements and the greater 
dependence on these in the near future will be suicidal to the Tharus 
unless they develop some specialised industry themselves or effect 
considerable improvement in the indigenous system of cultivation 
and develop maiketing organisation which does not exist to any 
considerable extent among them. 

To take one example, pottery used to be manufactured by the 
Thai us themselves. Tharu women make a number of articles which 
are useful to them. Previously they used to make earthen toys such 
as horse, camel, warriors on horseback, agricultural implements, 
utensils, etc., but these have been given up mostly as the Hindu 
potters are available who are making these with greater skill and 
perfection. The importation of cheap toys of Japanese or German 
manufacture has had much to do with the gradual displacement of 
this industry and even the potters themselves do not think it profitable 
to continue their calling. It is at the time of religious and semi- 
religious fairs and festivals that the potters make them and their 
novelty and attractiveness,, sometimes even their uncouthness, appeal 
to the children or their parents. 

The Tharus and Bhoksas even today make matora or bakhari for 
storing grain, barosi to keep fire, and earthen vessels for keeping fodder 
for the cattle. These are usually big things and do not require much 
skill to make, but they involve a lot of labour in their manufacture 
which, if paid in cash, is beyond the means of the average Tharu. 
The practice of paying in grain for articles of every day use, which is 



THE THARUS 85 

customary among most primitive tribes and backward castes in India, 
makes it an inconvenient transaction,, for the grain demanded in 
exchange for the big earthenwares would amount much in excess of 
the usual cash value. The potters insist on the customary procedure 
which the Tharus grudge to follow. So the making of these kinds of 
earthen vessels is still an occupation among the tribes in this area. 
The potter manufactures articles for domestic use,, such as galla, 
latia, bhulra, manua and even nad, i.e., different kinds of receptacles for 
water or for keeping spices, pulses, straw and fodder. In some 
interior villages, Bankati for example, most of the pottery is done by 
the Tharus themselves, elsewhere it is done by the potter caste, while 
in most villages it is shared between the two. 

The Tharus have skilfully utilised the natural resources and their 
group organisation for maintaining themselves in their material 
economy. The requisites for building houses are available in the village 
and in the forests that surround them, so that they arc self-sufficient so 
far as their needs for shelter arc concerned. The principal materials in 
the construction of shelter are wooden posts, rafters and beams which 
are procured from the jungles, and the grass, wattle, straw and mud 
are also locally available. It only requires human skill and labour 
to build the houses. There is little architectural skill in the construc- 
tion of these huts, though their shape and form are made as attractive 
as possible. The houses arc usually rectangular and the roof conical 
in shape. The roofing is seldom done with tiles, grass being most 
commonly used which projects on all sides sloping downwards. 
The ordinary mud walls of the plains is replaced by those of wattle 
coated with mud, so that they do not become very damp during 
rainy weather. The labour demanded for the construction of houses 
is easily obtained from the village itself, so that the cost of hired labour 
is insignificant. There is a season when building and repairing of 
houses should be undertaken. For if a cultivator wants a house to 
be built during the harvest ing season he cannot count on this voluntary 
service. It is only when the cultivators are free from outside economic 
pursuits that voluntary labour is available. 

If we look to the seasonal calendar of the Tharus we shall find 
that there are two periods when provision for building and repairing 



86 HE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE 

of houses and other miscellaneous work exist. They are May and 
June when there is little work in the fields, and November and De- 
cember when the men are usually free as most of the work falls to 
the women, those that arc done by men being usually light. So in 
May and June and November and December the Tharus build their 
houses or repair them in other words, once before the commencement 
of the monsoon and once before the winter rains set in. The main 
house is built facing east and a second hut faces south so that between 
them they shut out the winds from the west and north, both of which 
the Tharus claim are bad for health. The main house is usually a 
large one divided into apartments for sleeping, dining and keeping 
lumber, while the small hut may be used as a granary and to accom- 
modate guests of the family. The fact that the granary and the guest 
room are combined in the same building shows perhaps the same 
solicitude of the people to display their wealth which has already 
been referred to above. 

The houses are well lighted and well ventilated with doois and 
windows and there is provision for a large space in the courtyard into 
which they open. Every family possesses a kitchen garden where is 
always growing some vegetables, gourds, pumpkins, etc. Every 
morning the women sweep the courtyard and put a coating of co\\dung 
solution on the mud-finished walls making the house look very neat 
and pretty. Reference has already been made to voluntary labour 
which is available for the construction and repair of houses. It is 
not that a cultivator requisitions all the villagers for this purpose; 
the whole arrangement is prive tely made without any fuss whatsoever. 
There are some people in the village who are adept in this kind of 
work and when they are approached by those who need their 
services they come and help them. They receive no remuneration 
for their labour either in cash or in kind, but the family \vhich 
receives their help is anxious to reciprocate by gifts or similar 
service. 

This ungrudging source of free labour is only possible in a com- 
munity where the sense of duties and obligations has developed to 
such an extent that the icceiver understands the value of the assistance 
rendered and the giver realises the need^ so that reciprocity and mu- 



THE THARUS 87 

tuality of obligations become binding elements in their normal life. 
An illustration of this feeling would be found in the case of the marriage 
of Tulli's daughter in Kilpuri. Tulli's clansmen contributed sub- 
stantially to the expenses without which he would have to accept money 
from his daughter's fiance, which is extremely humiliating and has 
recently been banned by the Tharu panchzyat as a measure of social 
reform. Tulli is an expeit builder and he helped many families 
in the village sometime or other and, therefore, the expenses of Tulli's 
daughter's wedding were shared by his co-villagers. 'When you find 
a miserable looking hovel,' said my informant, 'you may take it .that 
the family lives aloof from the clan. Some members of the family 
must have acted against the tribal code for which it has been excom- 
municated, or the family is so quarrelsome that it has offended both 
its friends and enemies.' It could not be taken as a standard test of 
temperamental maladjustment or of the poverty of the family concern- 
ed, but there was much in what my informant Said. 

After the building of the house comes its furnishing as an in- 
dispensable requirement of a family. The usual furniture that we 
meet with in an average house consists of a number of beds, made 
either of wood or of strings, rarely of newar, a couple of crudely made 
chairs if the family is substantial, a few wooden stools, mats arid 
wooden cases or trunks made from galvanised sheetings used as safes 
as well as wardrobe. These being the general paraphernalia of an 
average house, we cannot expect much furniture in Tharu houses 
generally. We find, however, some woodbn charpoys or stringed 
bedsteads, stools made of strings with wooden framework, mats and 
baskets. In some houses we get wooden or stringed chairs, all made 
by the people themselves. Each house owns a set of tools for ordinary 
carpentry work. Fishing nets and traps are also made by them. 

Basketry and manufacture of mat are done by the women but 
men have to prepare the materials, even collect them. Many are 
the shapes and designs worked out by the women on the baskets and 
mats. The size and design vary according to the use to which they 
are put and the same kind of baskets may not be found in all houses. 
Hundreds of baskets are sold in the weekly markets and fairs and some 
have on them patterns of animals and men, elephants, horses, men 



88 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

with bows and arrows, and sometimes even hunting scenes are skil- 
fully woven. Girls sit by their mothers and learn the technique 
of basket weaving and when they marry out of their village, they 
carry with them their native art. Certain patterns are commonly 
manufactured by the Tharus and Bhoksas so that these are easily identi- 
fied. There is no patent right recognised by the Tharus so far as 
basketry is concerned and there is no prohibition regarding the intro- 
duction of new patterns or techinques by women who come from 
oth^r villages by marriage. On one occasion I asked a Tharu 
young man who was eligible and was thinking of marrying soon : 
"What would you expect in a woman you want to marry?" He 
named five desirable qualifications, and skill in basket making was 
one of them. I was told by the Pradhan of Ghandanchowki that 
weaving of baskets is considered by the Tharus as an indispensable 
qualification for an eligible b/ide and a desirable bride is she who can 
display her skill in basketry by nice patterns and novel designs. 
The materials required for weaving baskets are bamboo and reed. 
Before they can be used, they are soaked in water and are split into 
small chips. The chips are split and polished by men, and women 
use them according to their needs. The direction for particular 
kind of reeds or bamboo splits is often given by womeu according to 
the pattern they propose to weave. 

The Tharus are divided into a large number of sub-tribes or 
sections. Crooke mentions as many as 73 sections among them. 
These sections may be only exogamous groups for each Tharu locality 
behaves as one unit or clan and marriage is prohibited within the 
local group. In the Naini Tal district the Tharus are subdivided into 
12 groups belonging to two moieties^ one hypergamous to the other. 
The hypergamous group usually confines all marriages within the 
group, but may take wives fiom the other. The former group consists 
of the following clans; Batta, Birtia, Dahait, Badvait or Barwaik, 
Raw at and Motak. Some of these, especially the last three, are not 
independent groups, their social status also being similar though they 
are considered inferior to the first three sub-groups. The other group 
which is socially inferior to the above sub-groups consists of Buxa, 
Dangwriya, Khunka, Sansa, Rajia and Jugia. These claim descent 








Rjptls, our husbmnds* not* 




Fishing in shallow depressions 
and muddy water holes require 
special outfit. 




A much travelled Tharu 





Lively and Vivacious. 



A Tharu Pradhan 



Map of North 
Eastern U. P. 

Showing the area 

Inhabited by the Tharus, 

Important centre* are 

underlined. 



Pucca Roads 
Railway Lines 
Rivers 




THE THARUS 09 

from some mythical ancestor or ancestors. The Jugia (descended 
from Jugia Or hermit) is the lowest sub-group amorigthe ThaYiis while 
the Batta and Birtia claim the highest social status. The latter would 
not give their huqqa pani to the former and should anybody suggest 
relationship between them,, the suggestion would be most decidedly 
resented. There are other sub-groups like Daker, Kathariya/ Pra- 
dhan, Umra, Purilya, Khusiya and Datwar, which appear to be related 
to similar clans in Nepal. There are still others like Kachila, Pach- 
walas-, Musha and Ranker who are found in Pilibhit and Kheri districts. 
The influence of the Arya Samaj is spreading among the Tharus and 
group differences are becoming less rigid resulting in intermarriages 
between clans which refused to recognise equality in social status. 
The reformist section of the Tharus is loud in denouncing the fission of 
the tribe into small sections and a general levelling down of social 
status is what they devoutly wish for. The existence of hypergamy 
has disturbed the balance of sexes and marriage by capture still con- 
tinues among groups with lower social status whose women, how- 
ever, can find husbands in all groups high or low. 

The Tharus have a strong panchayat organisation and every 
local group has to conform to the code of social behaviour approved 
by the panchayat. There are two distinct spheres of social conduct, 
of life and living, one connected with the tribal pattern, the other with 
the routine life inside the village. While men sit in judgment and 
arbitrate in disputes affecting two or more sections of the tribe, women 
have considerable influence in the affairs of the family and are little 
dictators in that sphere. So long as their menfolk listen to them and 
do not dispute their rights and privileges within the family, the women 
do not interfere with the affairs of the tribe, and a division of functions 
is tacitly recognised in the Tharu country. 

I asked one of my informants that if women are so powerful 
in the village, why does the panchayat not include women as members? 
The man understood the logic of my question and said, 'We would 
welcome them if they come, but they need not', for no proposal or 
suggestion for reform is discussed by the panchayat which has not 
already been examined by the women at least informally, for it is 
they who arc ultimately concerned. The personality and independence 

12 



90 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

of women are recognised by the Tharus and men submit to them 
without grumbling and henpecked husbands are not rare among them. 
Yet the panchayat is a powerful tribunal and its recent activities prove 
that it has a hold on the masses. The cases that come under the 
jurisdiction of the panchayat are many and varied. Marriage with a 
non-Tharu must be answered by the person responsible to the tribal 
panchayat. Recently the Tharu panchayat has banned all inter- 
marriages between Tharu and non-Tharu. A girl whom we know 
in Bankati in Kheri district had an affair with a Tharu man. She 
belonged to the Kewat caste. The Tharu was asked to give her up 
and pay a fine to the panchayat. The fine was paid and a feast formally 
readmitted him to the community. The man, however, was very 
fond of the girl and decided to live with her this time openly. It 
was only after a week of the communal feast that he renewed his interest 
in the girl. The Pradhan was informed of this but he could not come 
to any decision. There were two opinions in the village. The 
women held that wrong was being done and the couple should be 
allowed to live as man and wife. The men however said that it was 
gross infringement of the tribal code. 'How could we hold up our 
heads before other castes? To-day we bring a Kewat girl, tomorrow 
a Muslim; and where would the Tharu girls find their husbands?' 
Yet no action was taken against the man. My informant commented 
that the men who could take action did not dare as they did not receive 
encoui agement from the women. 

In another case a Tharu girl had her eyes on a Muslim shop- 
keeper of the locality. The tribal panchayat frowned at it and threat- 
ened her with dire consequences. The women too loudly proclaimed 
their disapproval and jeered at her whenever they met her. The 
Pradharfs wife became furious; such unholy alliance could not be 
condoned. The shopkeeper knew the volume of the protest. The 
Pradhan was one of his debtors, he sold his ghee to the shop-keeper and 
the latter repaid him in salt,, spices and grain. The Pradhan was 
reluctant to move in the matter, but as his wife was determined he 
had to act. The girl brought the drama to a climax by transferring 
herseli permanently to the shopkeeper's house. Her brother paid a 
fine of Rs. 10 and the incident was closed, The Pradhan told me that 



THE THA&US 91 

he knew the girl was bad and it was a relief to him that she had gone 
over to the shopkeeper. His relations with the shopkeeper are now 
as cordial as ever. 

The panchayat may have failed here and there occasionally, 
but it does make itself felt in many ways. It was the custom among 
the Tharu women to smoke at shops, to cHew betel in markets or rub 
oil on their body in the presence of others at shops. No women 
would buy oil from a shop unless some 'extra' was granted by the shop- 
keeper, which would be applied to their body before paying the price. 
This practice is prohibited now and should any indulgence in it be 
noticed by the elders, the offender is fined Rs. 25. 

In Nainital district and also in Pilibhit the Tharu panch has 
banned the custom of brideprice and the bridegroom's parents are 
forbidden to pay any money to the bride's people. I was not given 
any sensible argument for this by the elders, but the motive behind it 
is a general desire of the Tharu reformers to conform more and more to 
caste practices. The lower the cultural status of a group, the greater 
the freedom allowed to women and the bride must be paid for. Among 
the higher castes it is the bridegroom who receives some considera- 
tion from the bride's parents, and if the Tharus claim Rajput origin, 
as they do now the desire to conform to the social practices of their 
progenitors is understandable. 

The Tharus worship their gods with offerings of water with live 
fish swimming in it. The panchayat now bans fish, again a tribute 
to higher caste practice. The panchayat does not permit the Tharus 
to sell their cattle to the local butchers and (hose who do so are heavily 
fined or ostracised by the panchayat. Other reforms introduced by 
the Tharu panchayat include elimination of waste in feasts, reduction 
of the cost of entertainments at marriage and other social ceremonies, 
stricter control over morals of the youth and the stoppage of obligatory 
gifts to the Pradhan and his wife at marriage by the parties to it. 
Some Pradhans still insist on 'token gifts' and others protest against 
the verdict of the tribal panchayat. One Pradhan did not hide his 
feelings when he was asked about it. Later on he explained to me 
how he and his colleagues in other villages had assisted deserving 
families by voluntarily contributing to the expense of their marriages 



92 tHfe FORTUNES Ofr frRllViif IVE f RlfcfcS 



and how the gift of Rs. 5 to Rs. 10 which they used to get were spent 
in return gifts to the family concerned. In many villages the Pradhani 
(headman's wife) still insists on her share of Re. 1-4 as. and she gets 
it too. 

The panchayat also sees to the fulfilment of obligations volun- 
tarily entered into by the 1 Tharus. For example, if the parents 
refuse to marry their daughter to the bridegroom after the Apna Par ay a 
(betrothal) ceremony, they are fined Rs. 25. Elopements are not 
allowed and a wife who elopes with another man is traced out by the 
panchayat and restored to her husband. If the wife refuses to come 
back, the second husband has to pay a substantial compensation to 
the first husband ranging grom Rs.200 to Rs. 500 according to the 
financial position of the person. Widow marriage is customary 
among the Tharus but should a widow decide to marry anybody 
other than her husband's brother, the second husband must com- 
pensate the first husband's family to the extent of one-half of the 
expenses incurred in the marriage. The panchayat, however, has 
every right to fix any reasonable compensation. 

A Chutkata or the second husband of a widow married by the 
latter in accordance with the customary practice of cutting the chut 
or tuft of hair on the head, is entitled to a share of the property of his 
wife if the latter disowned him or rejected him. Recently the 
tribal panchayat has decreed that the Chutkata could claim only Rs. 125 
in cash but no share in the widow's property. This decree, if generally 
conformed to, would discourage Chutkata mariiage and the panchayat 
makes no secret of its intentions. As it is the woman's prerogative, 
the decree is not bold enough altogether to prohibit the Chutkata 
system. 

That the influence of women in the Tharu society has not waned 
in the least will be evident from the fact that divorce is still freely 
allowed and if a wife wants to separate from her husband, she has 
only to ask the panchayat to fix the compensation. The panchayal has 
tried to improve matters by persuading the wife to reconsider her 
decision, and today the wife is seen to produce evidence of desertion, 
neglect, incapacity, cruelty and adultery in support of her claim. 
I met a young husband in disgrace in Chandanchowki who approached 



trffc trfARltt 93 

me for some medicine for impotency. The wife, he said, had given 
him notice that unless he could get himself cured, he would be divorced 
for incompetence. The panchayat, he told me, knew about it. He 
was genuinely anxious to treat himself as the alternative was a public 
scandal, a lonely life spent in grim struggle for existence and a drift 
into the unknown wide world. The panchayat in such cases allows 
Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 to the husband as compensation. The amount is 
realised from the second husband of the woman. 

The Tharu conception of marriage is similar to that obtained 
among the Hindus with a little modification. For example, a sonless 
father is a disgrace to the society and has no place in heaven after 
death. The Hindus also believe that a sonless father is thrown into 
the worst hell imaginable. Not only the father suffers from the sin, 
it also attaches to the seven generations before him. The birth of a 
daughter, however, does not raise the status of a Hindu father, but it 
certainly does so among the Tharus for he earns the blessings of his 
kith and kin and the virtue of kanyadan. Thus the female children 
receive as much attention among the Tharus as do the male ones. 
The attitude to children is determined by the position of the sexes in 
a society and the dominance of women among the Tharus naturally 
eliminates any act of neglect of female children or chances of female 
infanticide. The matriarchal society, it will be noticed, is immune 
from female infanticide. 

The status of women in a society determines to a large extent 
the customs and practices connected with maternity and motherhood. 
While most tribes observe some pollution during child birth and taboo 
women during their periods, the Tharus take both as a matter of course 
and little or no restrictions are imposed on the women and their 
activities. There is no dread associated with menstruation and the 
Tharu women are allowed to go on with their routine engagements 
as if nothing has happened. The Tharu panchayat to-day insists on 
women in their periods, not to enter the kitchen or touch any food 
or drink and has fixed a penally of Rs. 25 for those violating this rule, 
But the rule is observed more in its breach and the Tharu women do 
not seem to be anxious to yield to threats. As Moonga, an elderly 
Tharu of Khatima, told me, 'The panchayat has failed in all cases 



94 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRtBfcS 

where women were concerned, for the latter still hold to their rights 
and privileges traditionally conceded to them.' 

Some Tharu women told a barber woman I had employed to 
question them on the subject that they did not consider menstruation 
as anything dreadful or unnatural. It was the cessation of menstrua- 
tion that was significantly alarming, for they did not know why it 
ceased. Children sreborn by divine pleasure. The cause of pro- 
creation is not unknown to them,, but cessation of periods may or may 
not be connected with pregnancy and experience tells them that it 
does not always lead to conception. The woman who docs not get 
her monthly flow informs other women about it and the Bharara is 
appioached to divine the cause of the trouble. The interview is private 
and questions are indirect. The answers, of course, are always in 
the third person. A careful watch is kept on the woman for some 
time till the symptoms become definite. If the symptoms do not appear 
as expected, the Bharara is asked to find out the root of the trouble 
and he comes out with a prescription of propitiation of the offended 
spirits and medicines to help clear 'the obstruction' as he says. It 
is not true that the diagnosis is always correct, the calculations may go 
wrong but the bona Jide of the Bharara is seldom disputed by the 
women. 

There are not many pregnancy rites among the Tharus. The 
Bharara may give some amulet or charms to be tied on the arm of the 
woman concerned, or if the latter has had a previous miscarriage or 
has given birth to a still-born child, she may be asked to proceed to 
some temple where her devoted prayers and promise of sacrifice may 
secure the desired boon. The various tabooes connected with preg- 
nancy detailed for other tribes are not observed by the Tharu 
women. The notoriety that the Tharus have earned for magic and 
sorcery has not much to do with this aspect of their life. It is the 
skill of the Tharu women as midwives that saves the women at delivery 
and during the post-natal period. This is how we can explain the low 
mortality of women in the reproductive age among the Tharus as 
also the lower incidence of infant mortality. 

The belief that the Tharu women control witches and spirits 
and that they know strong spells and counter-spells is widely prevalent 



THE THARUS 95 

in the Tarai, and the Tharu women are dreaded and shunned by all 
caste people for this fact. The way the menfolk are treated by the 
Tharu women is loudly discussed in non-Tharu homes and even 
the loyalty of Tharu husbands is traced to the mr.gic of their wives. 
The local people say that every Tharu man or woman has the power 
to cause disease to others. The victims are carefully chosen so that the 
spells and incantations may be effective. Usually a stranger does not 
enter a Tharu village without being escorted by a trusted Tharu. 
Two sides of a triangle are preferred to the third in reaching one's desti- 
nation if the latter route follows the bend of a Tharu village. I was 
told by a Kewat who knows a little magic himself that the Tharus 
employ their magic very cautiously and seldom fail to effect their 
nefarious designs on their victims. Their spells may not always 
be effective as counter-spells by their own tribesmen render them 
innocuous sometimes. That is why the Tharus avoid certain da^s 
in the week and select the full or the new moon for sorcery and magic. 
The non-Tharu, therefore^ do not consider these days auspicious for 
new occupations, construction and repair of their houses, marriage 
and other social ceremonies, and if they have to undertake lon jourrieys 
or begin ploughing the fields or sowing seeds on those days, they 
must first render the spells backwards. This they say are effective 
in neutralising the evil influence and securing the victims from harm. 
There are not very valid grounds for believing that the Tharus 
have proved treacherous or faithless in their customary dealings with 
aliens and strangers. Neither have they pioved to be dangerous. 
The notoriety which they have earned for their alleged black magic 
and sorcery has subjected them to an uncanny suspicion which pre- 
vents free social intercourse with others and much of the dread the 
latter have for the Tharu rests on misunderstanding. Had not the 
position of women among the Tharus been so dominating and had not 
the other castes exaggerated the role of the Tharu priests or Bhararas, 
the Tharus would not have received so much attention as they do from 
their neighbours. The Tharus themselves candidly disclaim any 
knowledge of black magic though the women are believed to know 
names of many evil spirits for each of which they put on some charm 
or other to neutralise their power of mischief. It is, therefore; hi 



96 . THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

negative and protective magic that the Tharu women are well equip- 
ped, and thus they appear incapable of causing harm or disease to 
others. Yet the local people assert that every Tharu woman possesses 
magical powers to cause disease. When cholera or dysentery 
spreads in the villages, they trace it to the Tharu women. 

There are various beliefs about the modus operandi of these 
little magicians. They are supposed to create an atmosphere of intol- 
erance and indifference to supernatural powers in the village which 
offends the evil ones , the latter seeking revenge by inflicting diseases 
and even epidemics. A Muslim mahout, an employee of the Forest 
Department, North Kheri Division, who had been living near the 
Tharu villages for more than 20 years told me how the Tharu women 
effect charms against other people. He said that they contaminated 
water and milk, poisoned sheep, goats and fowls, spreaded poison on 
grass and fodder and whenever, by inadvertence, others took food or 
bought provisions from them, they caught infection, spit blood or 
suffered from dysentery, all ending fatally. He added that it was the 
Tharu women alone who could undo their own acts, they alone knew 
the spells and incantations to cure such afflictions, they could restore 
to life people who had suffered death from them. Many were the 
versions we received in the Tarai about the transformation of women 
into animals, cats, vultures and their power to change men into 
sheep and parrots. 

Stories corroborating these beliefs arc so numerous in the Tarai 
that the Tharu women have earned a notoriety which has prevented 
men of other tribes and castes from seeking familiarity with them. 
While the Korwas have isolated themselves from contacts due to the 
magic of other castes, notably of the Chero, the Tharus have maintained 
their culture pattern undisturbed from contacts with progressive 
social groups due to the latter' s fear of them. In the case of the 
Korwa this isolation has become so complete that even in their priva- 
tion and squalor they have refused co-operation with other tribal 
groups. A loss of interest in life and a disintegration of culture are 
manifest in consequence. The case is different with the Tharus. 
The Tharu women can attract men of other castes, can transform 
them into pet animals and birds, and if they do not do so, they can 



THE THARUS 97 

force their will on men making them obedient and subservient to them. 
The unrestricted social intercourse of Tharu women with other tribes 
and castes and their power to control their menfolk have lessons for 
their neighbours, and caste women jealously guard their husbands and 
children from the attentions of Tharu women. In spite of so much 
precaution men have strayed into Tharu villages and husbands have 
been tempted by wily Tharu girls to the despair of their wives. Though 
the Tharu culture does not seem to have received much infiltration of 
alien traits, the field of marriage of Tharu girls was never confined 
within the tribe and naturally the Tharus are found to possess mixed 
racial traits. 

Where women are so dominant, chastity may not be a virtue 
and the Tharu men do not worry much on that account. Marital 
jealousy is not absent among them, but their quarrels are ineffectual 
as the women have the last word. Against the faithlessness of their 
women, the Tharus use charms and amulets and often engage Bhararas 
who propitiate the spirits to effect a change of heart in their women- 
folk When the mediation of the Bhararas is proved useless the 
Tharu husband approaches the panchayat whose decisions in many 
cases are one-sided due, as the Tharus themselves will tell you, to the 
recognition of the fact that they cannot afford to incur the displeasure 
of their womenfolk. Divorce is allowed, but it is not easy for a man 
to separate from his wife. But a woman can and does separate at 
will. A man is no doubt entitled to compensation from his wife, 
but the financial settlement necessary is not prohibitive and can be 
met from the independent income secured to her. 
The Tharus practise adult marriage. No Tharu ordinarily 
marries before he is out of his teens and a. Tharu girl seldom marries 
before she is 16. The Majpatia or intermediary settles the marriage 
and his share in the choice of partners is not inconsiderable. The 
Majpatia has a responsibility in seeing that the marriages arranged 
through him are durable, he is also anxious to see that they are suitable* 
The villagers congratulate the Majpatia for the peaceful termination 
of marriage negotiations and successful performance of the ceremony. 
The parents remain more or less passive and have in most cases full 
faith in the Majpatia. He serves a number of villages, his jurisdic- 

13 



98 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

tion is secure to him, he is confided to by all the families, is often 
asked to give advice in domestic quarrels, help the distressed, bring 
about a compromise between warring individuals, He attends the 
tribal panchayal, usually as a member otherwise as a mentor to the 
council of elders. One Majpatia was telling me his wide experience, 
He was very proud of the fact that out of every ten marriages he had 
arranged, eight had proved successful, a record which, he said, could 
not be equalled by any of his colleagues in the Tarai. Indeed it is 
no mean achievement if it is a fact, for divorce is frequent and easy 
for women. The secret of my success,' said the man, fi is the con^ 
fidence the young people have in me. I always go to the young 
people concerned and when they give some idea of their intentions, 
I work it up/ He added, 'Marriage by mutual selection is as bad 
if not worse than marriage arranged by the parents. While in the 
latter case the chances of separation are less, in the former disillusion- 
ment shows itself very soon after marriage. What 1 do is to ascertain 
from the young man or woman about his or her personal likings. 
The girls are straightforward and often commission me to plan 
and bring about their designed match. The young men move, in circles 
and are often puzzling. But if the choice is from the girPs side, in 
nine cases out often the marriage becomes &fait accompli and divorce 
is rarely taken recourse to unless the woman wills it. But if the 
marriage is of the boy's choice it depends on compatibility and other 
considerations. 

The Majpatia knows every girl and boy in his locality, sometimes 
he undertakes journeys to find out suitable brides and bridegrooms. 
He is by nature a social and sociable person, his visits are welcome^ 
'He brings welcome news. His path is strewn with jeelabi? said 
one elderly Tharu referring to the custom of distributing sweets to the 
villagers on the completion of negotiations. The Majpatia is some- 
thing of a physiognomist, a reader of minds, a 'searcher of hearts'. 
He cannot be duped, he is very helpful. Personal equation influences 
cultural undertakings and the personality and nature of the Majpatia 
have much to do with his popularity and his efficiency. In some 
villages there are more than one Majpatia and then there is com- 
petition between them. An unscrupulous Majpatia has often created 



THE THARUS 

family dissensions and disintegration by his colourful presentation of 
'information'. 

The growing popularity of child marriage among the Tharus 
has transferred responsibility from the Majpatia to the parents con- 
cerned, for mutual choice is being gradually replaced by arranged 
marriages where the personal friendship between families is translated 
into permanent relationship by the marriage of children. Parents 
are known to settle marriages of their children at the age of 9 and 10, 
even earlier, and mothers cast their dice in favour of alliance between 
them before the children are even born. But even though the 
marriage is settled in childhood, the actual ceremony does not take 
place before the boy and girl reach 9 or 10 years of age. Where the 
position of woman is so dominant as among the Tharus it is the bride's 
people who naturally have the last word. 

The first ceremony in connection with marriage is the dikhnauri^ 
when the Majpatia proceeds on an auspicious day with the bride's 
people to the bridegroom's village to introduce the latter and show 
his status, financial and otherwise. The representatives from the 
bride's side are treated to a hearty meal with wine, meat and sweets 
(jedabi). Questions are put by the elders of the dikhnauri party to the 
bridegroom and members of his family the villagers helping the latter 
by voluntary and often interested information trying to convince the 
bride's people of the suitability of the match. The free flow of liquor 
through the parched throats raises the spirits high and an atmosphere 
of cordiality and familiarity soon develops which melts stubborn 
hearts and levels hurdles. The approval of the dikhnauri party is sig- 
nified by performing tika, the boy receiving from 4 as. to a rupee, 
and the people assembled receive jedabi from the bridegroom's 
people by the dikhnauri party and the latter leave for the village to 
prepare for the apna-paraya or betrothal ceremony. 

Three to five days after dikhnauri) the bridegroom's father with 
some elders of the village, commonly known as the social panch, and 
the Majpatia proceed to the bride's village. They take with them 
what they call 'the milk price' for the bride, that is, consideration for 
the girl's mother for her milk, and this consists of fish, gur and jeelabi. 
At the ceremony all the villagers are invited and the village announcer 



100 tHE FORTUNES Of P&tMiTIVE TRIBES 

is sent round to proclaim the ceremony of apna-pamya. The bride 
is brought before the guests and questions may be put by the elders 
in the bridegroom's party to the bride which she answers sometimes 
.with commendable skill. There are certain set questions charac- 
teristic of Tharu culture. The bride's skill in hunting and fishing, 
her knowledge of weaving baskets and mats^ of manufacturing 
earthenwares and her skill in needlework are special items of inquiry 
and the members of the family arc often anxious to exhibit the bride's 
handiwork to dispel any doubt about her accomplishments. The 
father of the bridegroom has to express his approval on the spot and 
immediately it is announced., it is followed by the distribution of gur 
and sweets to those present who reciprocate by gifts to the bride at the 
time of her marriage. The bridegroom's people, if they can afford 
it, present liquor, fish and meat to the village. 

The contract between the parties is sealed by medha larai or the 
amount paid to the biradari (tribesmen) for a feast. Here also a minor 
rite is performed which shows the importance of the bride's parents. 
The bridegroom's father takes a metal plate., puts a silver coin or two 
on it and salutes the bride's father. The latter returns the compli- 
ment by doubling the gift and if the two parties are well off, there ' 
is a competition between them to outdo each other. This rite is 
followed by a further gift of a few rupees to the pane hay at of the bride's 
people for a tribal feast. A dance is arranged and both men and 
women take part in it. The reform campaign in the Tharu country 
has ruled dance out of order and the panchayat has been instructed to 
fine Rs. 25 those who take part in mixed dances. A liberal gift of 
wine even now tempts Tharu women to dance in public and even at 
Chandanchowki, which is not So much in the back of beyond., such a 
treat could be easily arranged. 

On return from the bride's village the bridegroom's father 
announces through the village harkara that the negotiations for the 
marriage are complete and they must prepare for the coming ceremony. 
There is little possibility of the marriage being cancelled as any party 
refusing to marry after the performance of apna-paraya as severely taken 
to task by the panchayat of both the villages and a fine of Rs. 25 is 
imposed on the party backing out. Months, sometimes years, may 



Tfcfe TrtARite 101 



pass' between the apna-parqya and the next ceremony, i.e., badkohi or 
pichonchha, but the parties must not forget each other. Presents and 
gifts, food, clothes and cash are exchanged between them and the 
bride's father visits the bridegroom's family, the latter responding by 
sending representatives to do the same. During the interval the bride 
may engage herself in making useful things, weaving baskets, mats or 
other requirements of a family, and the dali from the bride's family 
may include handicrafts. One characteristic feature of this exchange 
of formalities is that the gifts from the bride's people arc always sub- 
stantial, dignified and double or treble the quantity sent by the bride- 
groom's people. In no circumstances can the bride lower herself in 
the estimation of the bridegroom's village. The bridegroom's people 
must offer such gifts first and the bride's people will only return the 
compliments. 

When the date of the marriage ceremony is to be fixed, the bride- 
groom's people proceed to the bride's village with presents of fish, 
gur and sweets. The ceremony, i.e., badkahi 01 pichonchha, must be per- 
formed on Sunday or Thursday, usually in the lighter half of the month 
of Pus (November-December). The marriage ceremony can take 
place on Sunday or Thursday if the badkahi takes place on Thursday 
or Sunday, respectively. The actual marriage among the Tharus 
takes place ordinarily in the month of Magh (December-January). 
When the date is fixed, all the women from the bride's village filter 
in the courtyard of the bride's house and one by one they salute the 
bridegroom's father. The latter, custom-bound, pays a silver coin 
to each. The money is collected and presented to the bride as it is 
considered her share. 

The role of women in the wedding is the most interesting 
feature of the ceremony. The bridegroom is completely under the 
control of his sisters and others who stand to him as such. For three 
days before the ceremony takes place, they would daily anoint him 
with oil and turmeric paste. The married sister of the bridegroom 
and her husband serve the bridegroom as his personal valet and all 
_ attention is paid by the couple to his comfort. One day before the 
marriage procession starts from the bridegroom's village, a number 
of customary rites aie observed. A part of the courtyard (chauk) 



102 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

is cleaned and decorated by artistic designs drawn with rice-flour 
and two plates, one containing a small earthen pot and full of oil and 
some hardi (turmeric), are placed near the bridegroom who is seated 
on the chauk. The villagers and guests now pour into the courtyard 
and hand over their presents to the bridegroom's forehead. He 
touches the clothes, coins and other gifts with, his sword, and transfers 
them to his sister who sits by him. The latter may offer them to her 
mother who keeps custody of these gifts. 

The bridegroom is now ready for his bath in which the guests 
and relatives, mostly women, assist him. He also puts on his sacred 
thread then. In Nanakmata and Khatima the sacred thread ceremony 
takes place under a peepal tree by placing a jar full of water and a 
plate of gur, the latter being distributed to five young boys who keep 
company of the bridegroom till the ceremony is over. After the 
groom's return, the guests are treated to a sumptuous feast, food being 
served to the guests at least four times in the day, so that " there may 
be plenty of fuel" for the people to dance and sing throughout the day 
and night before the barat starts for the bride's village next morning. 

The barat must start under auspicious circumstances. The 
co-operation of all the leaders of the tribe, political, social and spiritual, 
must be sought to avoid untoward incidents. The Pradhan and his 
wife must permit the procession to start. The sisters of the bride- 
groom in company of other female members of the village proceed 
to the Pradhan' *s house, singing and dancing to the tune of drums and 
cymbals. The Pradhan and his wife receive some presents, coins, 
gur, and jeelabi from the bridegroom's people. They reciprocate 
generously by presenting the family with bags of rice, pulses or paying 
double the number of coins they receive. This formal exchange 
signifies the permission of the Pradhan and his wife after which the 
barat can proceed towards the bride's village. The Bharara brings 
some charmed water which is offered to the sisters of the bride- 
groom so that all along the way no mischief or accident may occur 
till the barat reaches its destination. 

Substantial Tharus engage palanquins and lead the procession. 
Usually the procession reaches the outskirts of the bride's village before 
sunset. I was told of the mock-fights that used to be fought by the two 



THE THARUS 103 

parties at the boundary of the village, but this seems to have become 
less popular. On one occasion I attended a marriage ceremony 
\vhen only the small boys of the bride's village threw a few brick- 
bats at the procession approaching the village and even these were 
thrown in the air. Some interval elapses between the arrival of the 
procession and the formal entry of the party to the village, and during 
this period, mutual exchanges of greetings between the elders of the two 
parties create an atmosphere of cordiality which is punctuated with 
free distribution of gur and wine. When the bride's people are ready 
a signal is given by the women of the village and the barat is divided 
into two groups, one fallowing the bridegroom's palanquin, the other 
that of his bahnoi (brother-in-law). The bridegroom is taken by a 
separate route into the courtyard of the bride's house where he is 
received by the bride's father. He is led to a special house constructed 
of leaves and bamboos for his temporary residence. His bahnoi is 
taken by a second route to the bride's house where he has to perform 
certain ceremonies as instructed by the women. On completion of 
these preliminaries the brother-in-law comes to the groom and carries 
him in his lap to present him formally to the bride's mother as a gift. 
Welcoming ceremonies are held at this stage and the bridegroom's 
people have to offer coins to a number of people serving them in par- 
ticular capacities. 

The binding part of the ceremony consists of circumambulation 
which is secretly performed in the presence of women, all male rela- 
tions on either side being excluded from the function. A basket 
containing five articles, clothes, fish, curd, a jar full of water and a 
lighted diwa is placed in the centre of the courtyard round which the 
couple move slowly seven times. This is followed by another rite 
which places the right palm of the bridegroom on the right palm of 
the bride, the latter holding it pretty tight showing the nature of the 
grip she will have on her spouse. Loose and obscene talks characterise 
the coversation indulged in by the women on both sides and the bride 
is helped by the women to put on her choories and bichuas. So long as 
they remain as man and wife, the bride is not allowed to take off her 
choories and bichuas. Even 4 if she does sometimes take off the bichua, 
never so the choories, The wedding thus complete, the bridegroom's 



104 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

people are then treated to a hearty meal while the bridegroom is 
served his food inside the house. Amidst a gay and romantic crowd, 
the bridegroom manages to take his meal, punctuating his endeavour 
to eat by answering streams of questions from the women. His 
discomfiture often excites peals of laughter, but he takes the jokes in 
good humour, as he must, and the sympathy and help he receives 
from particular women is adequately rewarded by him by payment 
of gifts or coins. 

An elaborate send-off is given to the party on their way back. 
Villagers come with presents and gifts for the couple. The bride is 
prepared for the journey and her mother and .sisters accompany her 
in the palanquin up to the village boundary. The bridegroom's 
people have to reward a large number of relatives; the bride's brother 
asks his reward for assisting his sister's departure, the sister-in-law of 
the bride receives money for her share of the worries. Even the 
father of the bride comes forward to demand money to remunerate 
those who have helped him in the matter of arranging and looking after 
the comforts of the barat. All these and much more must be paid on 
the spot and it often becomes a stiff ordeal for the bridegroom and his 
people. The bride is accompanied by five to seven women of the 
village and the latter stay with the bride till they are sure of her 
comforts and good treatment in her new home. 

On arrival at the bridegroom's village, the Bharara intercepts 
the procession and begins his weird rites to placate the spirits which 
are known to cause trouble. He may offer water charmed by spells 
and incantations which is sprinkled on the crowd before it is allowed 
to enter the village, or he may take to more elaborate processes of 
propitiating the spirits by gur, ghee and balls of kneaded flour and 
lead the procession through a zig-zag route till it reaches the main 
gate of the bridegroom's house. The bridegroom's parents now 
prepare for bahij or feast to the villagers in honour of the bride, while 
the sisters of the bridegroom keep busy conducting the couple from 
room to room, making them touch the earthen pots containing 
grains, and treating them to rice and curd specially prepared for them. 
After the bahij the bride with her companions leaves for her parents' 
village and stay there till the chala ceremony. 



THE THARUS 105 

The chala ceremony is held in the month of Baisakh, 2 to 3 
months after the marraige. In some cases there may be a second 
chala which completes the marriage, as it is after the chala that the 
wife permanently settles in the house of her husband. The bride- 
groom with his younger brother and other male relatives proceeds 
to the bride's village in the brighter half of Chait-Baisakh, and are 
received by the bride's parents with great cheer. They stay for a 
day or two and then return to their own village with the bride. The 
latter may now remain permanently in her new home or she may go 
back after seven days. If she does so, she is again fetched by the 
bridegroom in the month of July-August when she finally settles 
down in her husband's house. 

An interesting feature of the marriage code of the Tharus is the 
ban on the parents and other relations of the bride to visit the latter 
in her new home. It is considered shameful for the Tharus to do so, 
and if it becomes absolutely necessary, the peirents of the bride or 
other near relatives have to offer a thali and a lota and in presence of 
the villagers must wash clean the feet of the bridegroom and the 
bride. This is done by placing the feet on the thali. Unless this 
formality is gone through, the bride's people cannot even take water 
or huqqua from the bridegroom's village. 

Besides the regular form of marriage, there are some irregular 
forms, as for example the kaj in which a widower keeps a widow or a 
divorcee as his wife and is not required to go through the elaborate 
ceremony of marriage proper. The Pradhan and his wife are inform- 
ed of the intention of the person desiring to take such a wife and the 
Pradhani puts on choorlcs and bichua on the woman. A feast is the 
only public function connected with kaj. Should a woman prefer to 
live in her house and keep a man as her spouse, she does it by the 
chutkata ceremony. The wife in this case cuts a lock of hair from 
the new husband's head and either wears it on her person or buries 
it underground at the threshold of her house. The chutkata has the 
right of an adopted son so long he remains with his wife. 

The "cycle of life" which begins at birth winds through marriage 
and ends in death. Death among the Tharus is not all due to witch* 
craft or through the malign influence of spirits and ill-disposed gods. 

14 



106 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

They told me, as they have told many others, that their climate is 
bad, unhealthy, damp and malarious. There are wild animals in 
their forests which claim an annual toll from them. There are accidents 
which do happen in spite of everything and deaths are due to natural 
as well as supernatural causes. They know that medicines cure them 
when they fall ill; their Bhararas also know charms which keep down 
the incidence of disease and epidemics. Also they believe in the 
capacity of their women to ward off the evil eye and the evil breath. 
Further they have confidence in the store of their tribal lore regarding 
many of the diseases they are heir to. We have found among the 
Korwa a sort of 'tranquil' despair which has resulted in an apathy and 
a fatalistic submission to diseases and epidemics, which they think 
are due to the magic of other people who surround them on all sides. 
But nothing like this is noticed among the Tharus whom we found 
anxious to report their illness and seek remedies. They have learnt 
from experience the power of allopathic medicines, e.g., quinine for 
malaria and boric lotion for inflamed eyes. They also believe that 
the local doctor and the vaccinator are useful in more ways than one, 
but at the same time they believe that the Bharara does possess charms 
and spells which can make his prescriptions effective and his medicines 
powerful. That explains how in every village wr visited there was 
anxious inquiry for the medical officer appointed by the District Board 
and complaints against the inadequacy of medical aid. 

My blood group work among the Tharus became easy because 
l of their belief that a medical examination of their blood would provide 
some diagnosis of their common ailments, a promise that some of my 
informants mischievously held out to the people to create enthusiasm 
among them. The extent to which they responded ( tide Tharus 
and Their Blood Groups, J.R.A.S.B. 1942) is a proof, if proof is required 
of their interest in my investigations. If they believe in the Bharara 
and his prescriptions, how can they rely on the medical officer of 
health? Magic and Science are contradictory prescriptions, as one 
flourishes in ignorance, the other is based on experience and knowledge. 
But much is common between magic and science and in the same 
society, we usually find both functioning side by side. 

Science has not superseded magic in the Tharu society, it has 



THE THARUS 

not done so anywhere, and both exist side by side as do religion and 
magic even in the most advanced society. The Bharara has his 
clientele, so also has the doctor. But the fact is that the latter in the 
interior districts is most ill-equipped, and as his sole purpose is to 
reduce the incidence of malaria among the population in order that 
labour may be available for the Forest Department and for other 
administrative purposes, the medical officer soon loses his interest in 
his pharmacology and by sheer disuse he allows his knowledge to rust 
till he becomes equally ineffective as the Bharara. One would pres- 
cribe quinine for all kinds of illness, the other would prescribe a course 
of propitiation of the offended spirits. Yet between them they have 
been able to keep up the spirit of the tribal people, and the Tharus 
show no sign of exhaustion or weakness and I should think they are 
flourishing like other people more favourably situated. 

The dead among the Tharus is either cremated or buried. The 
Naini Tal Tharus prefer burial to cremation. People dying of cholera, 
small-pox and other epidemics are cremated,, but those \vho die of 
snake bites are exposed on mounds outside the village. They believe 
that people killed by snake bite do not die and for three days they 
may keep the body exposed after which it is buried 01 burnt. The 
Tharus use cots inside their houses and when death occurs the body 
is not removed from the cot. They cover the body with a cloth and 
send information to friends, relations and other villagers to join the 
last rites of the dead. The relatives soon join the family in distress, 
and each Tharu family in the village sends a representative to attend 
the funeral. 

In some areas custom provides for the carrying to the place of 
burial or cremation by the relatives of a number of agricultural im- 
plements, sickle, spade and axe which are not required for the burial 
or cremation. But as these implements usually belong to the family 
in which death has occurred, it may be a survival of an earlier custom 
of burying with the corpse all the dead man's material possessions. 
The cot is carried to the cremation ground by four persons where it 
is maimed by breaking one of its legs, a practice which is meant to 
indicate the use to which it was put to. If the corpse is buried, care 
is taken to lower the body with its face downwards if man, or upwards 



108 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

if woman. Arrangements must be made for lavishing comforts to 
the soul of the deceased by placing a pot of water on the spot, and 
making a crude \effigy of the deceased with grass and sometimes return- 
ing next morning with cooked food. The Tharus of Gonda call a 
Brahmin at death but the other Tharus do not. The Bhoksas do not 
bury their dead, they simply cremate and only when a person dies 
from small-pox or cholera do they bury him. In that case they feed 
the Brahmins to become sudh or clean. Persons of influence are 
buried with appropriate honours and the family of the deceased builds 
a small temple to commemorate the dead. 

Although pollution is extended to three days, the family con- 
cerned may be cleaned after 24 hours by providing a feast in which the 
persons partaking in the funeral rites as well as others are treated to 
a sumptuous meal. The soul of the deceased is not forgotten on the 
occasion and before the meal is served to the guests from the kitchen 
a special plate with food is kept separate and which at night is taken 
to the place of burial or cremation along with water, huqqua and 
earthen utensils as well as winnowing basket. When the food is placed 
before the soul, the relations and friends who bring it are not allowed 
to look back but all disappear under cover of daikness, no one speaking 
or making any noise on the way. They will keep together, take deep 
breath and walk as fast as they can. Running is considered bad 
manners and insult to the departed, while fear of the spirits makes 
them run, double quick, of course unconsciously; but as they all hold 
together their steps are automatically regulated. 

Besides the funeral rites we have described there is also a joint 
mourning of all deaths in the village on the occasion of Dewali 
which among the Tharus is known as the festival of the dead. 

The Tharu ideas about an after life, of iieaven and hell, of reward 
and punishment are all vague. The unusual predominance of women 
in their society has stifled the personality in their menfolk and the 
Tharu men do not seem to have learnt to think independently. They 
have great reliance on their womenfolk and their activities are cir- 
cumscribed by the whims and prescriptions of their women. Other 
castes in the Tarai compare the Tharu men with sheep or parrots 
who reproduce their master's voice, the master being their women. 



THE THARtJS 109 

Above their women, there are spirits and gods whom their wives 
propitiate and worship, but the men do not bother about them. 
Now they have learnt about them from the Bhoksas or from the Arya 
Samajists, but they have riot accepted them to any appreciable 
extent. They salute each othei saying Ram 3 Ram. They trace all 
theii happiness to Kalka or the goddess of life and death, and to 
Bhairava or Mahadeva her devoted spouse. 

Their cattle is protected by Nagarhai or Darchandi who is 
worshipped by the village in the house of the Pradhan. Each Tharu 
family has a mound in the centre of the courtyard or in front of the 
house with a wooden peg fixed to represent this goddess and other 
gods as well. The Tharus believe that Bhumsen is their patron deity, 
the one presiding over the village, while Raksha is taken by the Tharus 
as their patron saint. It is worshipped in the month of Kartik and 
throughout the month the Tharus refrain from going to the fields or 
driving cattle and goats there. Bhumsen is fond of goat's meat, fish 
and gur and so is also Kalka, while flower andjeelabi are demanded by 
Mahadeva. 

The principal festival of the Tharu is Holi which is observed for 
more than a week and during the festival a sort of saturnalia is indulged 
in by the women. Members of diflfeient villages meet on the occasion 
and runaway marriages are planned and effected. This is the spring 
festival of the Tharus and partakes of the same pattern as the Maghe 
festival of the Hos in Singhbhum or the Karma of the Korwas. The 
women take the leading pai t in the festival and the panchayat goes to 
sleep for a couple of months after. There is. not much*to be done at 
Dashera. The Tharus, however, sacrifice cocks and pigs to propitiate 
the Devi who is often confused with Mata. Brahmins have introduced 
the worship of Satyanarayan and the katha has become already very 
popular in some villages. There are also days when the Tharus have 
to fast and other prescriptions will soon be adopted as the intensity 
of their contacts with Hindu castes increases. 



THE KHASAS 

The Khasas or the Khasiyas who constitute the highjcaste people 
of the cis-Himalayan region are either Rajput or Brahmin, though 
intermarriage between them has not been barred by the rules of caste 
endogamy. The various artisan castes that inhabit this area are re- 
cruited from the Doms whom the Khasas brought with them or sub- 
jugated. The Khasas are usually tall, handsome, fair complexioned 
(rosy or sallow), possess a long head, vertical forehead, fine or lepto- 
rhine nose, hazel eyes with a sprinkling of blue, curly hair and other 
features well-cut and proportioned. The women are also comparatively 
tall, slender and graceful, of a very attractive appearance and of ex- 
tremely gay disposition. 

There is ample evidence of the racial similarity of the Khasas 
with the inhabitants of Kashmir and remarkable similarity exists 
between the family law among the, Khasas and the Punjab customary 
law notably that obtained in the Kangra hills. The Khasas have 
been referred to in the Brihal Samhita along with the Kulutas (resi- 
dents of Kulu), the Tanganas and the Kashmiras, and their occupation 
of Madhyadesa mentioned in Vishnu Parana, Han Vamsa and in the 
Mahabharata, indicates their traditional antiquity. They most 
probably occupied various parts of Northern India in prehistoric 
times, and there is some truth in the statement that "they occupied 
large areas from Kashmir to Nepal". In the Drona Parva of the 
Mahabharata the Khasas are described as having arrived from diverse 
realms. Manu, the great Hindu law-giver, has referred to the 
Yavanas several times in his Code of Laws along with the Sakas, 
Kambojas and other rude tribes on the borders of India. In one place 
(Book X, 43 and 44) he writes as follows : 

**. . . .The following races of Kshatriyas by their omission of 
holy rites and by seeing no Brahmins, have sunk among 
men to the lowest of the four classes, viz., Paundrakas, 
Odras, Dravidas, Kambojas, Yavanas and Sakas; 
Paradas, Pahlavas, Chinas, Kiratas, Daradas and 



THE KHAfiAS 111 

Khasas." These are all described as Dasyus or wild 

people who were descendants of the four original castes, 

mixing promiscuously with one another and neglecting 

their religious observances (Book XV. V 12 to 24). 

Our information about the racial elements in the population 

of the Himalayan region is extremely meagre. The relationships 

between the various racial groups in the cis-Himalayan region and 

those of Central Asia are also little known. So far as Central Asia 

is concerned^ we have primarily to depend upon the data collected by 

Sir Aurel Stein between 1900 and 1928. These have been analysed 

by T, A. Joyce and lately by Dr. G. M. Morant. In a recent paper 

the latter has compared three new series, viz., the Pathans, the Dardic 

speaking Torwals of Upper Swat, and the population of the Hunza 

valley,, and has pointed out the similarities between the first two groups 

while both these differed markedly from the third. The data analysed 

by hrm indicate considerable intermixture between the original Dardi 

and invading Pathan peoples in the Upper Swat valley on the one hand 

and between the onginal Hunza and immigrating people from 

the Pamir on the other. 

Little is known about the physical anthropology of the Hindu- 
kush and Karakoram mountains though a number of investigations 
have been carried out during the last 60 years or so. Ujfalvy's 
measurements of a number of tribes in 1881 provide "the earliest 
systematic records of physical anthropometry of the North- Western 
Himalayan region". He was followed by Sir Aurel Stein who 
measured a large number of tribes including Red Kaffirs, Khos and 
Hunza Burushos. Dixon measured a large number of Burushos and 
de Fillipi made a detailed study of the somatology of six major racial 
groups of the Upper Indus valley. As a member of the scientific 
expedition of the Government of India which collaborated with 
Morgenstiernc's linguistic survey of the Hindukush region. Dr. B. S. 
Guha carried out an anthropometric survey of the races living there 
and his conclusions were recorded in a paper entitled The Racial 
Composition of the Hindukush Tribes. He finds three distinct strains in 
the racial composition of the Hindukush tribes, namely, a dark 
oriental type forming the basic, a short-headed intermediate, and a 



1 12 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

tall, long-headed, fair race constituting the apex of the population 
with a certain amount of Mongoloid admixture especially in the 
eastern section. He also indicated how the proportions of the three 
vary in different parts, those of the last two being stronger in the 
western valleys whereas the basic oriental and the Mongoloid are 
more conspicuous in the eastern territories drained by the Upper 
Indus. 

A comparison of the indefinite somatic characteristics of the 
various groups living in the Himalayan region indicates three important 
racial strains. The highest altitudes are inhabited by the Tibetans 
and other Mongoloid people; the central belt is composed of a tall, 
fair-faced people represented by the Rajputs and Brahmins; and 
a dark aboriginal type represented by the Dom, a generic name used 
to include all artisan castes who have generally a Dom extraction. 
These have mixed in varying proportions to produce the many types 
and groups that one meets with in these parts. The artisan castes 
supply the menial order in the hills. They are not allowed to hold 
any land on their own and they live by serving the high caste people. 
The Kolis of Sirmoor and the Simla hills, the Koltas of Jaunsar- 
Bawar, the Chamars, the Oadhs, the Bajgirs and other artisan castes 
belong mostly to the Dom ethnic type or are hybrids resulting from 
intermixture between the high caste people and the aboriginal ele- 
ments in this region or between the invading people and those 
conquered and subjugated. 

How far the tribes in the North-Western Himalayan region, 
usually classified on linguistic basis as Dardic and Burushaski and 
Kaffiri as an intermediate group between Iranian and Indian, are 
related to the tribes of Jaunsar-Bawar would be a fruitful inquiry. 
A comparison of the racial characters of the tribal groups living in 
Jaunsar-Bawar is also important as it may provide evidence about the 
racial elements in the population of the Himalayas, as Jaunsar-Bawar 
forms a pocket as it were of Indo-Aryan penetration in this region. 

Anthropometic data were collected from Jaunsar-Bawar in 
1941, the results of which are given below. I could measure three 
important social groups, w*., the Khas Brahmins, the Khas Rajputs 
and a third composed of the artisan castes. In all 320 subjects were 



THE KHASAS 113 

measured. Blood group tests were also taken along with somatological 
measurements. It was not possible, however, to take serological tests 
of those who submitted to physical tests as the people were extremely 
suspicious of our motive and superstitious beliefs about the importance 
of blood to sorcerers and witches frightened many young people 
from submitting to the needle. In all, 231 typings were taken on 
this occasion which was increased to 346 in the following summer. 

My purpose in the present analysis of somatic traits is not to 
trace any existing evidence regarding the complicated ancestry of the 
people of Jaunsar-Bawar, nor to study the extent of correlations, if 
any, between the diverse geographical regions and the population 
which can very well be discussed later on. My purpose is merely to 
indicate the relationships of the higher cultural groups represented 
by the Rajputs and Brahmins with the artisan castes. 

Culturally, there does not exist much difference between the 
higher and the lower groups. All castes in this region are polyandrous 
and partake more or less of the same culture pattern. But the artisan 
elements in the population suffer from a number of social disabilities 
which are difficult to explain unless we assume that there exists a 
racial difference between the high castes and the artisan castes and 
that the former have conquered and subjugated the latter. For 
example, the artisan castes are allowed to till the soil and to enjoy 
the produce of the land they cultivate, but they do not own it and 
when they die without any direct heir the land reverts to the pro- 
prietary body known as the zemindars who are invariably Brahmins 
and Rajputs. The w r omen belonging to the artisan castes are not 
allowed to put on certain kinds of ornaments which are exclusively 
meant for the upper classes; for similar reasons they are not allowed 
to use gold for their ornaments. 

At the lowest rung of the social ladder lie the domestic drudge, 
the Kolta, the traditional "hewer of wood and drawer of water 15 . 
He lives by serving the higher castes and is bought and sold for agri- 
cultural labour. The Koltas, the Kolis and other agricultutal serfs 
in the Himalayan region ov\e their origin perhaps to conquest by the 
higher castes in this area. The heavy weight of debts the Koltas 
have to repay and their indolent improvidence have perpetuated their 



1 14 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

serfdom and the labour of a Kolta can be secured by paying 
off the accumulated debt he owes to his master and transferring 
his debt obligations to the man who compensates the former 
creditor. 

Emphasis^ therefore,, has been placed on the intia-group relations 
between the important cultural groups and for this reason, the artisan 
castes have not been treated separately but lumped together. If 
the Koltas are treated separately, which I hope may be possible at a 
later date, they will most probably show marked divergence of type 
from the high caste groups as well as those artisan castes who aie 
considered of higher social rank, e.g., the Bajgirs or the Oadhs. But 
the extent of intermixture is not the same in every strata, and even 
in Jaunsar-Eawar different conditions are noticed. It is found that the 
Koltas have received much of high caste infusion in Bawar, though 
in Jaunsar the same degree of infusion of foreign blood is not apparent 
from the physical features. 

Sixteen different characters of each individual were measured 
the details of which are given in the tables to follow. The technique 
will be described in the report of the anthropological survey of 
the U.P., now under preparation. The mean ages of the gioups 
are high for all being above 30. They are for Brahmins 33.2, 
for Rajputs 35.9,, and for artisan castes 31.8. The standard 
deviations show that the groups measured were not selected as 
they are pretty high for age distribution. The number of sub- 
jects measured in each group was a little more than 100, but by 
eliminating doubtful cases and also those for which all the characters 
were not available, I have taken 100 from each group which may 
be taken as a representative sample considering that conclusions 
have been drawn from much fewer specimens. 

The means and standard deviations of the three series measured 
in Jaunsar-Bawai are given in Tables I and II. In comparing 
the constants (Table III) a difference greater than 3.5 times its 
probable, error will be considered significant, but values above 
3 are given. In our measurement of the auricular height, a few 
readings were suspected to be erroneous and no use has therefoie 
been made of the data with regaid to this character, Between 



iCttASAS 115 

the two series A and B, comparison of the means of 15 absolute 
measurements show a significant difference onl\ in the easel of 
sitting height (3.6). The two groups represented by the samples 
A <md B are known to intermarry and are the high caste people 
in this region. From traditional evidence as well as from a com- 
parison of indefinite somatic traits, the two samples may be taken 
to belong to the same population and the results of analysis of 
statistical data do not tell a different story. 

It is only in the standard deviation that we find a difference 
as the standard deviations of most of the characters of scries B are 
greater than those recorded for A. The reason is not difficult to find. 
The Biahmin has maintained his purity more than the Rajputs 
as those among the former who many women belonging to the 
inferior castes lose their social status and even caste affiliation. 
In course of time many of these families have been assimilated 
into the Rajput castes which perhaps accounts for the heteiogeneity 
of the latter. A kind of social tug-o'-war has been going on in 
these parts from times immemorial and the result of the pull has 
sometimes favoured the artisan castes and sometimes the high 
castes. In some cases the rank of the Rajputs has gained by such 
marriages while in others the lower castes have received the 
infusion to their advantage. 

The effect of mixed mariiages, however, has not left the Brah- 
mins untouched as they often intermarry with the Rajputs and 
whatever characters may result from admixture are introduced. 
But it is rare to find high caste girls marrying members of the 
artisan class. When such marriages take place the husband lives 
separate from the caste to which he belongs, but in course of two to 
three generations the descendants may, if they aspire to it, receive 
the designation and rank of Rajputs or become pseudo-Rajputs. 
This is why the artisan elements, as will appear from the standard 
deviations of series G, show greater homogeneity than that obtained 
among the other two series though comparison of the means shows 
some divergence of types. 

The Koltas and other artisan castes who have been grouped 
together for comparison with the Brahmins and the Rajputs show 



116 HE FORTUNES OF pRiMifivfc 

marked divergence from the latter as will appear from the signi- 
ficance ratio. Out of 15 characters compared, the artisan series 
significantly differ fiom the higher groups (Series A and B) in 
7 characters. The artisan group differ from the Brahmin in nasal 
length (5), in nasal breadth (7), nasal height (6), total facial 
length (7), upper facial length (5), orbito-nasal arc (4.7) and 
in stature (3.3). The artisan castes differ significantly from 
the Rajputs in nasal length (4.6), in nasal breadth (6), nasal 
height (8), total facial length (5), upper facial length (5) and 
orbito-nasal arc (3.9). Thus the diffeience between the artisan 
castes and the Rajput is less marked than that between the 
Brahmins and the artisan castes. 

Recently, however, it has been abundantly illustrated that the 
C.R.L. (co-efficient of racial likeness) method has certain signi- 
ficant limitations and it should not be regarded as a valid measure 
of racial diffeience. Prof. Fishei has shown that the C.R.L. is 
defective in that it takes no account of the correlation and co- 
variation of different measurements but treats them as though 
they are statistically independent. The effect of this is to cause 
very high or very low values of the co-efficient to occur more 
frequently by chance than they should. Recognising the limita- 
tions of the method as such, I have applied it to my material and 
the results obtained, as will be evident below, have not been very 
different to those we expected fiom the analysis of the Khasa data 
as given above. 

According to the C.R.L. values, the Brahmins and the Rajputs 
do not show any divergence, but the Koltas and other artisan castes 
cannot be taken to be racially of the same stock as that repre- 
sented by the Brahmins and the Rajputs. The C.R.L. between 
the Brahmins and the artisan castes is 7.113 .246 and that between 
Rajputs and the artisan caste is 7,021 .246, but between the 
Rajputs and Brahmins the C.R.L. is .525 .246 which indicates 
very close association and that the two gioups should be taken 
as samples of the same population. The difference between the 
artisan castes and the higher castes represented by the Brahmins 
and the Rajputs, and between the Rajputs and Brahmins shows 



THE KHASAS 



117 



that they are not extreme types as is evident from the C.R.L. 
values. There is association between all the three samples which is 
perhaps due to the extent of intermixture that has occurred during 
centuries of contact, cultural and otherwise. 

I shall confine myself to the serology of the three cultural 
groups only so far as it is relevant to the subject. The work is 
not yet complete, but from what I have found from an investiga- 
tion of 346 subjects, it appears that there is some corroboration 
of the evidence of physical measurements discussed above. The 
346 typings give the following percentage distribution : 



Name of castes 


O 


A 


B 


AB 


Khas Brahmins (102) .. 


29.8 


32.9 


31.0 


6.3 


Khas Rajputs (118) 


33.8 


31.7 


26.2 


8.3 


Artisan castes (126) 


28.1 


22.4 


40.1 


9.4 



The percentage of A increases as we proceed from the lower 
to higher cultural groups while that of B increases from higher 
to lower groups, The artisans have 28.1 O, the Rajputs 33.8 O, 
and Brahmins 29.8 O. The Brahmins have 31.0 B, the Rajputs 
26.2 B and artisans 40.1 B. It appears that the highest percentage 
of O is found among the Rajputs (33.9) which agrees with Dr. 
Macfarlane's data for Bengal castes, but unlike the Bengal data 
the percentage of A and B among the three groups does not increase 
from the higher to the lower castes. Thus the Brahmins have 
32.9 A, the Rajputs 31.7 A, and the artisans 22.4 A, but the 
percentage of B increases from high castes to the artisans. I 
shall not discuss further the results of blood group investigations, 
but it appears from what I have already, said that the biochemical 
evidence supports that of anthropometry and there is little doubt 
that here in this cultural zone we are dealing with at least two 
groups, one representing the higher castes and the other the artisan 
castes. Racial intermixture in this area has, it appears, succeeded 
in producing a blended ethnic type which corresponds to the blend- 
ing of cultures. The cephalic indices for the groups are, Brahmins 



THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

71. 3, Rajputs 7!. 6, artisan caste? 73.0. The nasal indices are, 
Brahmins 66.0, Rajputs 67.3 and artisan castes 74.5. Thus there 
is a progressive shortening of the head from the higher to lower 
caste groups and a broadening of the nose, but the difference is 
not such as to constitute them into distinct ethnic types. Besides, 
the Dom clement may be an eady Mediterranean stock, and not 
the Ausnoloid type found in the juagles and hill fastnesses. From 
individual measurements it appears that there is also a brachy- 
cephalic element in the population of the cis-Himalayan region 
which Hutton claims to be Armcnoid or of Eurasiatic stock. That 
Mongolian infusion appears well marked in some parts of this 
cultural region no one who knows the Khasas will deny, but the 
brachycephaly may not be due to Mongolian source, as the 
Mongolians are not necessarily brachycephalic and we have already 
seen among the Tharus that a Mongoloid people, which they 
evidently are, can also be dolichocephalic. 

The district of Dehra Dun which occupies the northernmost 
part of the Meerut Division in the United Provinces lies between 77 
35" and 78 20" east longitude and 29 57" and 31 2" north latitude 
and has an area of 1,193 square miles. Geographically the district is 
divided into two regions, the Dun proper which !s an open valley 
enclosed by the Siwalik hills and the outer scrapes of the Himalayas, 
and the hill pergannah of Jaunsar-Bawar which is the hill appanage 
of the Dun. The latter is roughly an oval tract of hilly country with 
its major axis lying north and south. The boundaries of these two 
tracts, viz., Dun proper and Jaunsar-Bawar are sufficiently clear 
and well-marked. The Dun valley is enclosed within the Himalayan 
range, the Siwaliks and the rivers Ganges and Jamuna. The river 
Tons sweeps round Jaunsar-Bawar from the north and finally 
with a "course trending the main south joins the Jamuna near 
Kalsi". 

To the north and east of Jaunsar-Bawar lie the states of Tehri, 
Jubal and Sirmoor, and to the south lies the Dun valley. For adminis- 
trative purposes, Jaunsar-Bawar is included in the Chakrata sub- 
division of the Dehra Dun district. The whole of this tract is rugged 
and full of precipitous mountains with little flat ground. There are 



THE KHASAS 119 

many tall peaks varying in height from 5,000 to 12,000 ft. and some 
of these give off into ridges which suddenly "descend to dark chasms' 5 . 
The rocks are mostly of limestone which account for the irregular, 
and massive formations. There are many ravines, some bare others 
wooded, while the valleys are covered with fine grass enabling herds 
of buffaloes to live and multiply nnd provide milk for the g hee 
industry. 

Jaunsar-Bawar contains laige tracts of forest areas and number- 
less hills densely covered with tall trees and thick vegetation. Few 
villages are found in these hiils as land for agriculture is not available, 
the declivity of the slopes being too steep for cultivation. The chief 
species of trees are the deodar (cedrus deodara], the chir (pinus Icngifolia] 
and the kail (pinus excelsa). The last is a variety of chir. Deodar and 
chir are both of great commercial importance and are used in the 
construction of houses and manufacture of railway sleepeis. Chir 
though not so durable or valuable as the deodar is still of considerable 
commercial value. Besides supplying timber, turpentine and rosin 
are extracted from ils resin. There are also other species like the 
ban (quercus incana], moru (quercus dilatata], akhrot (juglans regia], darbi 
(cedrela serrata] and thunet (taxus baccrata]. All agricultural implements 
made of wood and the wooden parts of others are made from moru 
which is also used for making walking sticks. Akhrot gives fruits 
(walnuts) rich in fat while the wood is specially used for making 
butts for guns and the bark of the thuner serves as a substitute for 
tea. A number of species of fruit trees are found in the hills, such as 
amla (phyllanthus emblica], hinsar (rubus species], kingar (berberis species] 
and mol (pyrus pashia] . 

There are a humber of rivers and rivulets in Jaunsar-Bawar 
though few of them are perennial streams. In the summer months they 
dry up and water is only available in deep water holes and gorges 
sheltered from the heat of the sun. But during the rains, these 
streams become roaring torrents, full and swift. The economic 
value of these rivers lies in the cheap carriage they provide to timber 
felled in the forests. The difficulty of transport is great in the hills 
and is minimized in the case of sleepers by the small gads (rivulets) 
which are used for transporting them. As there is hardly any market 



120 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

for timber in the hills, it is carried down to the plains and the. rivers 
and the streams help in facilitating such transport. Where there are 
no gads the sleepers made on tops of hills are cariied down by the 
dry-sliding method or by human labour. The latter is a painful 
process particularly where the descent is steep. After the sleepers 
are brought near the gads there is a further difficulty to overcome., for 
there is seldom enough water in the gads to carry the sleepers down 
with the current. An artificial channel is made by damming the 
water at a distance and the sides of the streams are carefully planted 
with sleepers in such a way that water may not escape through the 
gaps in arrangement. These are stopped by coveiing the escapes 
with leaves and grass. When ah artificial channel about two furlongs 
or so is thus made,, the sleepers are put in the water and pushed 
towards the dam. In this way all the sleepers are made to accumulate 
at the end of n the artificial channel which is broken from the mouth 
and then they float down. A new channel is then made, and the 
process continues till the sleepers reach big rivers like the Jamuna or 
the Ganges which contain enough water to transport them further 
down. Although the Forest Department spends huge sums of money 
every year, the indigenous inhabitants seldom take advantage of em- 
ployment in these forests. The bulk of labour, skilled as well as un- 
skilled, are procured from the neighbouring states and Garhwal. 

Jaunsar-Bawar forests are rich in natural fauna, e.g., kastura 
(musk deer), bar a singhan (stag), bhalu (beer), sahi (porcupine), 
bagh (panther), ead (flying squirrel) and many other species of animals 
are found. The Khasas eat the flesh of kastura, ther, barad, bara singha, 
ghold and khakar. The skins of these animals are used for various 
purposes. There are plenty of birds, e.g., unal, titar, chakor, phakabons, 
baltak, murgi, whose flesh the people eat, but they do not eat crows 
or pigeons. The forests are grouped into different classes, some 
reserved, some protected, while others are free or village forests* In 
the free forests hunting is allowed and the people take advantage of 
it. Hunting is usually a co-operative undertaking in Jaunsar-Bawar, 
a number of men joining together and taking part in regular expedi- 
tions. The simplest way is to fence a plot of forest and men and women 
throw stones insi'de the fencing so that the frightened animals may come 











Tire,* Repository of 'lore 




of a to 




Water is 

Ms or "her turn. 




A in 



THE KHASAS 12 1 

out attempting to escape. Stones are hurled from all directions and 
after some time the animals get exhausted and succumb to the 
injuries sustained during the onslaught. 

The other method is known asjibalu and is ordinarily meant for 
the capture of panthers. 1'hcse are greatly feared by the people. 
A cage-like device is made with stones and wooden planks and a 
goat is tied inside. There is a small opening which automatically 
closes when the panther enters the cage for the goat, and the animal 
is captured alive. Most interesting accounts of methods of killing bears 
are given by the Khasas which also figure prominently in the folklores 
of the hill people. Curious beliefs about the nature and habits of the 
bear are found in Jaunsar-Bawar. A bear when it attacks people in 
the forests usually scratches its victim's face and this, according to 
the Jaunsari, is due to its proverbial jealousy of the beauty of the 
human face. Though it is a dangerous animal, the hill people are 
by no means afraid of it. 

Stories are current about many indigenous methods of capturing 
bears. The bear, as a rule, attacks men from behind jumping on 
his back. One interesting method may thus be described though it 
appears highly improbable : two persons go out into the forest with 
sticks and two long baskets called ghildis. Should the bear jump on 
one, the latter so adjusts his ghildi that the bear drops into it. The 
other man then belabours the animal with his stick. In its rage the 
bear jumps on the other man who in turn places his ghildi in such 
a position that the animal is immediately trapped. The first man 
now strikes on the bear's head with his stick and between the two 
they kill the animal. This method of hunting bears, if it is piacticable, 
shows that the hill people are careful observers and they know how to 
take advantage of the nature arid habits of the animals with whom 
they share the forests. 

Jaunsar-Bawar is a cold country, although in the valleys of the 
Jarnuna^ the Tons and their feeders it is quite hot from March to 
October. On the higher altitudes, the thermometer sometimes 
records over 20 degrees of frost. The winter months are spent in 
feasts and festivities by the people as no agriculture is possible on the 
hills, This is the time when the hill people kill their goats and feed 

16 



122 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

theii neighbours, and for a month or more feasts continue and mutton 
and beer are all that they live for. 

The Jaunsaris are very fond of building substantial houses. These 
are made of timber in beautiful surroundings with the small terraced 
fields below, and are picturesque in silhouette against the hillsides, 
The villages are usually situated in the valleys or on the slopes of hills, 
but never on the top. Winter is very severe on the hilltops and 
continual snowfalls and severe cold blasts make living on the higher 
altitudes difficult and dangerous in the extreme. The need for 
warmth in such a climate makes the people extremely fond of the sun 
and they build their houses in such a way that they get the maximum 
period of sunlight. Besides sunlight water is precious on the hills, 
and the villages are built by the side of hill springs or on the banks 
of rivulets, so that water may be brought to the village by channelling 
from higher levels. 

A group of villages co-operate in distributing water to the 
villagers and definite schemes for apportioning water are carefully 
drawn and executed. These make it obligatory for a village to keep 
the channel within its boundary in good condition, to .insist on the 
use of the water by the village and also to co-operate with neigh- 
bouring villages in contributing labour for constructing or recondition- 
ing the springs, reservoirs and channels on which the supply of water 
to the entire group of village depends. The small terraces available 
for cultivation are intensively treated as fanning demands skilful 
manuring and irrigation in these regions. Water for irrigation is 
brought to the terraces sometimes from rivers and rivulets through 
small kuls or channels skilfully cut in the rocks. The usual method 
is to make a dam across a gad or river at a suitable place and from 
there the water is brought through a canal one to three feet wide and 
one to two feet deep to a point at the highest level of the field. 
If a continuous channel cannot be made on account of surface 
conditions, a pvtnalu connects the ends of a khalu or gap which is 
otherwise unbridgeable. 

A patnalu is made from the trunks of trees hollowed lengthwise 
so that they may serve as channels foi water. The construction and 
maintenance of kuh are often the concern of a group of villagers so 



HE KMASASl 

that they arc either made by collective labour or by someone known to 
be expert in making them. In the latter case the villagers have to 
contribute their respective shares towards the stipulated amount to 
be paid to the artisan or contractor. The contribution of individual 
families is proportionate to their share in the village land and is 
decided by the sayana or headman of the village or of a group of villages 
which are served by the kul. The maintenance of a kul during the 
months of July and August, when there is heavy rainfall in these 
parts, is a difficult job and the entire village or a group of villages has 
to take the work in hand. Though usually there is no quarrel among 
the villagers on these matters,, for the authority of these headmen is 
still regarded as sacred,, dissensions regarding the distribution of 
water are frequent. The headman with the assistance of the elders 
of the village has then to intervene and settle the disputes. 

Another use made of the kul in these parts is the running of 
ghats or grinding mills worked by water-power. A ghat may be owned 
by a single family or a group of families. If it is owned by a single 
family its use by others is ungrudgingly allowed and custom demands 
that a small portion of the ground stuff be given to the owner of the 
ghat as his rightful share. There is nobody to receive it and it is 
usually kept in a basket or a leather bag provided by the owner. The 
Khasas possess an extraordinary sense of right and wrong, of honesty 
and justice, and they seldom abuse this privilege. 

The ghat is enclosed either within a small rectangular thatched 
house or one made of timber and slates. The mechanical device 
is simple. As the mill is worked by water-power, water must 
be brought down from a higher level with sufficient force so that it 
sets the mill going. Water is brought from gads and is carried through 
a wooden channel known as pandal which is dug out of tree trunks. 
The ghat is made of two round flat stones, one placed over the other. 
The lower one is called the tali and the upper one the pat. The tali 
is fixed on the floor with an iion nail running vertically through 
the centre of the tali over which the pat is placed. This pair of circular 
stones is connected with a wooden block called the verum with a 
number of projecting flat sticks called panwals. They are so arianged 
that as the running water rushes against the pawval, the verum starts 



124 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

moving, which by means of certain device makes the pat move on its 
axis, the iron nail. A wooden container wide at the mouth and narrow 
at the lower end is connected by means of a tube-like arrangement 
with the pat, so that with the rotation of the latter, grain put in the 
container pours through the narrow end of the tube into the mill 
which grinds the corn and releases the flour. 

Jaunsaris build substantial houses. These are usually built 
of timber, mud and slates. lor timber they use deodar and it is only 
the poor people who use inferior stuff. Iron is not commonly used 
in these parts. The houses are rectangular in shape and consist 
of two or more storeys. Each storey has a single room and the height 
is just enough to allow a man to stand erect. As the average family 
possesses one house, if it is two storeyed (which it usually is) the 
ground floor is used to house the cattle so that all the members of the 
family have to share the only other room in the house. Several 
brothers with their common wife or wives sleep in this room so that 
the total output of animal heat may serve the purpose of comfortable 
bed. Here also they cook their food, keep their belongings and lounge 
during the day. Some families possess a kuthar or small storehouse 
built separately in the yard, but as the levels of the two houses are 
not the same they are connected by an improvised staircase. There 
is not much scope for ventilation in the house except through the big 
door made of a single solid plank or two or more planks joined together 
so as to form one piece which can be fastened from inside as well as from 
outside by means of iron rings and hinges. Besides the big door at 
the entrance, there may be one or two small windows in every room, 
which are like small holes and are usually kept shut from inside. 

On the first floor there is a khadru (wall almirah) three feet by 
one to two feet, which is used for keeping odd things and the small 
belongings of the family. The oven is inside the room. A big flat 
stone (pathal) is placed on the floor, and another at right angles to it, 
leaning against one of the walls. The stone is thickly plastered with 
mud so that there is no chance of the fire over-heating the stone and 
setting the wooden floor ablaze. The fire in the oven is kept smoulder- 
ing day and night and is replenished with leaves and twigs from time 
to time so that the inmates of the jiouse can get fire for tobacco and 



*HE KHASAS 

sit round it to keep the severe cold at bay. The oven has two to 
three openings so that two or more pots may be simultaneously placed 
over it. A small hole in the roof covered by an adjustible piece of 
slate provides an escape for the smoke and also allows light to enter. 

There is a balcony around the upper storey known as chajja, 
made by projecting the wooden beams of the house on all sides and 
planking them over. There is a wooden railing round the balcony 
for the protection of children. In the yard of the house, a small 
area is paved with flat stones which is used for drying grain and 
massaging and sun bathing which are popular recreations in these 
parts. As the people do not take frequent baths due to scarcity of 
water in the summer and intensity of cold in the winter, daily massage 
and application of oil on the body are regarded as essential for per-* 
sonal hygiene and it is the wife's duty to oil and massage her husband 
or husbands. So used are the Khasas to this form of comfort that they 
expect this service from the wife as a matter of course. 

The Khasas decorate their houses with carvings on the wooden 
walls and beams. These are very neatly executed and show unusual 
skill. The ends of the beams which project out of the roof are 
artistically carved to resemble the faces of men and animals such as 
panthers or monkeys. Where two or more ends of beams meet 
the carving shows superb technique in depicting the faces of animals. 
On the walls of the houses, particularly the front wall of the main 
house, and the balcony of the kuthar, the carvings of flowers, animals, 
etc., are carefully made. Scenes depicting hunting and other activities 
of the people are also drawn on the sides of houses. 

The front wall of the house is painted brown or light red, and 
the artistic mural decorations are made in suitable colours so that 
the houses in Jaunsar-Bawar appear attractively designed and sub- 
stantially built. Old houses which have stood on the hillsides for a 
century or more were all built of deodar, but as the deodar forests have 
been closed down by the administration, it is with great difficulty 
that the rich among them can secure this wood for building purposes. 
The poor people now use chir. 

The construction of the houses is not usually the work of each 
individual family. There are certain families known as Oadhs who 



126 THE FORTIES OF PRIMITIVE 

are skilled in this work and they are usually employed by well-to-do 
families. The Oadh is paid in kind while he is engaged in the 
work and his family is fed by the employer. After the work is done., 
he .receives some further reward in coin or kind or both. Every 
family which needs the services of an Oadh has to pay some annual 
contribution (dadwar) to him after the harvests reach the threshing 
floor. When the house is ready for occupation the owner has to 
sacrifice a goat in the yard and the blood of the sacrificed animal is 
ceremoniously sprinkled round the house to propitiate the evil spirits 
so that the occupants may have nothing to fear from their wrath. 

The Jaunsaris use clothes of indigenous make. In the winter 
they wear a choli or woollen achkan which reaches down to the knees 
and a suntan or pyjama to cover the legs. In the warm weather the 
pyjama is replaced by a piece of rag round the loins and the choli over 
it completes their dress. The people of Jaunsar-Bawar are occasionally- 
described as "naked Aryans' ', because their legs and thighs are com- 
pletely bare during the summer. For a belt they use a long piece of 
cloth which is wound round the waist many times. The usual head- 
dress is provided by a turned cap with edges rolled up while their 
shoes have leather soles and woollen tops. Recent contacts with 
Chakrata have effected certain significant changes in their dress., in 
pattern as well as in material,, and men arc found to wear coats and 
vests which they buy second-hand from dealers in Chakrata. The 
style and cut of the choli made locally have also undergone some 
modifications. 

The women have not changed their dress much, though there 
are Jaunsar belles who don jumpers and silk sarees made into skirts 
which they buy at fairs or in town. The women use a type of choli 
known as ghundia which is longer and its lower half decorated with 
pleats and flaps. The upper part of the ghundia resembles a jumper" 
with or without sleeves. It has now become fashionable to wear 
cotton clothes instead of woollen in summer. Women prefer to put on 
cotton and silk if they can afford them. As they do not spin cotton, 
most of the cotton clothes are imported from outside, but well-to-do 
families have planted cotton trees and the spinning of cotton is 
beepming .popular in Jaunsar. 



THE KHASAS 127 

Dress and ornaments have so great a fascination for the women 
that frequent -quarrels with their husbands occur if the latter do not 
provide them with fancy articles of dress or ornaments. While in 
Rawain and adjacent Simla states polyandry is being gradually re- 
placed by marriage between single pairs x . Jaunsar-Bawar retains 
the older custom and here even a group of husbands often find 
it difficult to maintain a wife whose demands for clothes and finery 
are on the increase. Frequent quarrels arise when the wives 
complain against their husbands for incompetency to provide them 
with heavy ornaments^ and divorce or chut often arises from these 
complaints. 

The usual ornaments worn by Jaunsar-Bawar belles are niany 
and varied and the shape and size of these are different from those 
one finds on the persons of women in the plains. The majority of 
the ornaments worn in Jaunsar are meant for the ear, nose and neck. 
Various kinds of necklaces are worn of which chharu, jantar and 
khagwali are the most popular. The khagwali is a thick flat necklet 
of one piece with the ends thinned out and tightly set round the neck. 
The chharu is a bead necklace while the jantar is made of flat pieces 
of silver square or oblong in shape and of various sizes. The most 
coveted ornaments are those for the ear called murkhula and the com- 
bined weight of these has the effect of dilating the lobes and elongating 
the ears. A number of these is usually worn by a woman and the 
whole ear is perforated to provide a base for these earrings. One 
often finds a \\oman displaying earrings hanging from a string tied 
round the head as there is no place left in the ears for them. 

All the ornaments described so far axe made of silver while the 
natholi or the nose ring is usually made of gold. This is a large ring 
thick at one end and inset with small silver or munga beads. The 
thicker or heavier side is kept on top and is tied with a coid to the hair 
in such a way that it passes over the left cheek-bone under the left 
eye. Besides these ornaments the women also put on bangles 
usually known as dhagula which are heavy and are worn on the wrists. 
Men do not as a rule wear any ornaments., but small earrings are often 
found on the persons of young men. 

Tattooing is popular to-day in Jaunsar-Bawar and women 



128 THE FORTUNE! OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

usually tattoo their arms, hand and feet. These are locally done by- 
pricking the skin with a i&$&--ftnd injecting into t}le scr^tdags a 
kind of vegetable dye. > . : - ' 

There are not many rmi$ictel instruments among {he iChasas, 
and many of the once popular cki.rtcb are foot seen now. The Indian 
tablah finds its substitute in", # 'number df indigenous timbrels. The 
dholki is a small drum verymftch in tise/but other kinds of drums in 
this area are the ghara or an eafth^n pitcher used as & drutfl; r a 
or salver] donroo, a small drum shaped in the fashion of an ; 
which is held in one hand and played with the fingers? 
or nasartoo is a small kettle-drum plajted -mostly during manage- o 
festive occasions and also fft temples; the dhtilki is m^ade -of Woodland 
is played with both palms. Sinai is a kind of flute made of wood? 
There are five holes along its length, the mouth is fitted with a-thitf 
tube which is the mouth-piece. - - ~ r * c - 

In cold climates daricfcs fofrm the most important fofrn cff 
recreation and in the Transgiri tract iff; CJarhwaJ, ; Rawairi, and 
Chakrata, various kinds of dances are practised, fta sqme'dance& 
either the men or the women alone take partj but .there 
in which both the sexes participate. The names of the dances 
from area to area but certaift common elements in these danced 
affiliate them to a common family. Where both the sexes take part in 
a dance it is always the girk of the village,, whether married or un- 
married arid locally ki^own as. dhy antics, who can join in. The popular 
form of dance in Sirmoor and neighbouring Simla states is the gee 
dance which is danced by both men and women. In this dance 
there is scope for individual 'display of rhythmic movements though 
very often it is Jdanced in pair. .Married women in their husband'^ 
village should not and will not take part in these dances though they 
can join the admiring crowd. Exhibition dances often take the form of 
mimetic displays of dramatic representation* .of scenes and ideas and 
humorous sketches of known personalities,. District officers, Europeans 
and others exciting laughter and innocent mirth. The mimic sketches 
and impersonations require skill and thus some training is required. 
This is why in the karala dance^we-find-' small groups of people working 
as partners who trade oa this art. The other popular dances are 




No ai* w*t 

*H 

a 



On tit if e of tor 

A 

of 




A at 










ft in for A 

to to all the 

of a 
particularly, 



THE KHASAS . 129 

tandi, jhumka> dangri, chhopati and the highly specialised dances of 
badinis, professional dancing girls. 

Tihtjhumka is a popular dance among the Khasas in which only 
women figure. A group of women numbering four or more arrange 
themselves in columns and now and again spread out in a line, each 
holding the other by her hands placed on either side. They dance 
round and round so as to form circles, sing appropriate songs and move 
their bodies in time with the music. After a while, the dancers 
release their holds, abandon themselves as it were, and bending their 
hands in front so as to make a ring, start jumping, the steps being regulat- 
ed by a characteristic sound of chhup which acts as a palliative conco- 
mitant. In the chhopati dance, two women dance crossing their hands 
and standing opposite each other, and in rhythmic rotary movement 
they display their skill and mastery of technique. The climax is seen 
when the two dancers press each his feet against the other's and 
swing round, arms clasped and the bodies obtusely inclined out till 
they lose their balance and drop dazed to the ground. 

The counterpart of the chhopati is the dangri dance where two 
men dance together using a dangri (an iron instrument with a wooden 
shaft). There is scope for movement of the bodies and both singing 
and dancing are simultaneously practised so that there is melody as 
well as rhythmic steps. 

Nearly 85 p.c. of the Khasas depend on agriculture. The 
tiny terraces have to be carefully prepared and richly manured with 
cattle excreta and water is skilfully brought to the terraces from dis- 
tant springs, rivers or reservoirs. The work animals are also put to 
great difficulties on account of the altitude and the nature of the soil. 
The land in Jaunsar-Bawar is varying in quality and even the same 
village has lands of varying fertility. The nature of the hills is res- 
ponsible for the variation for some hills are made of rock, others are 
of soft earth. Again, land is divided into those irrigated and others 
not irrigated, the latter depending entirely on the fains and the moisture 
that can be preserved on the soil by preventing water from precipita- 
tion running out of the field. 

The land-tax is quite high. In the Simla states it is assessed 
at the rate of Re. 1-4-0 per bigha for six months. A bigha in these 

17 



130 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

states is capable of being sown with 5 seers of grain especially wheat. 
(A bigha is 2^ pattas, each patta can be sown with 2 seers of grain). 
The inferior quality of land is assessed at the rate of 4 annas per 
bigha. In Rawain, land is measured on the basis of nali (and muthi). 
A piece of land requiring one nali (one seer] of seeds will measure 
240 sq. yards in area. One muthi or one chatak (l/16th of a seer) 
is required for 15 sq. yards. Thus a piece of land requiring 200 nali 
and 10 muthi would measure 200X 240+ 10 X 15=48,150 sq. yards. 
The kheel ijrar and katir are inferior lands, unirrigated and not 
regularly cultivated. The best lands are sera or the irrigated ones. 
They are also known as abi or kalahu salana. The unirrigated ones 
are also known as ukhar. 

There are not many valleys which are convenient for farming.' 
Land is generally sloping, and much labour is required to prepare 
the fields for cultivation. The rough and rocky surface has to be 
levelled by digging the land towards the mountain side and raising a 
wall of stones to keep down the moisture from precipitation. Some- 
times even five to six feet high walls are made to make a level field. 
Thus are made the terraced fields which garland the hills all over the 
Himalayan region. Even after a field is cut out and levelled the 
labours do not cease, for constant repairs are needed to maintain it. 
In the rainy season, on account of heavy downpours the walls often 
give in and rapid repairs have to be made to keep the moisture down. 

Irrigation is a complicated job in the hills as water can only 
be brought to the fields with considerable difficulty and much labour 
and expenses are required in the initial stages as well for the maintenance 
of the supply. Although sera land is irrigated and are the best for 
cultivation, there is a slight temptation for the peasants for ukhar 
cultivation. If the rains are regular, the ukhar land produces as much 
as the sera, while the expenses involved in sera cultivation are often 
prohibitive for persons of ordinary means. At the same time the 
revenue demand for ukhar is negligible. The unirrigated lands near 
forests do not fail, as copious rains during the two monsoons help 
the land to absorb moisture sufficient for certain crops. This probably 
accounts for the small percentage of irrigated land in these parts, 
though possibilities exist of channelling water through the rocks from 



THE KHASAS J3J 

the numerous springs,, rivulets and natural reservoirs of water in 
the hills. 

The difficulties of securing manure on the hills are also great. 
For example, manure has to be made of vegetable products or of 
cattle excreta. The people here mix both kinds of manure believing 
in the richness of such blended material. The vegetable manure is 
provided by the forests,, generally from the dry needles of chir or litter 
from leaves of ban, burases and other trees with broad leaves. The 
collection of this vegetable matter is a continuous job for two to three 
months,, usually from January to March. These are collected in 
gildhis from neighbouring forests, village or reserved, and are lumped 
together in a heap in a corner of the courtyard. Often the dry needles 
and the forest litter are spread in the cattle shed (chhari), so that they 
may absorb the urine and excreta of the cattle which are discovered 
to possess fertilising properties. Every morning the cattle shed is 
swept clean and the litter and dry needles of chir which have been 
saturated with the cattle excreta and discharge are collected and 
deposited in heaps serviceable for use later on. The decomposed 
vegetable matter provides the necessary manure. 

A number of subsidiary occupations are followed in Jaunsar- 
Bawar. The cold climate of the hills makes it impossible for people 
to undertake any outdoor work during certain months of the year 
and during this period they necessarily follow occupations which can 
be pursued without much moving about. 

Of the subsidiary occupations the most important and most 
popular is spinning of wool for domestic consumption. Every family 
has to spin wool for its own use and it is done by all the members,, even 
the small children. A small basket is carried about containing a small 
spindle and carded wool. Whenever their hands are free, they start 
spinning with their deft fingers. The wool is collected from the sheep 
and goats which every family in the hills keeps. They graze on the 
uplands during the summer and in the winter they are brought back 
to the village. Twice in the year, once in the month of August and 
once in February, the sheep are sheared. The average annual yield 
per sheep is about 4 Ib. of wool. This raw wool is washed in hot 
Water and kept under water for a couple of days. It is then beaten 



132 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

on stones to rid it of dirt and grease and then finally washed. The 
wool is now dried in the sun and when completely dry it has to go 
through a process of cleaning and carding with a bow-like implement 
called chitkani. 

Unlike spinning, weaving is not a general occupation. It is done 
by low caste people who are professional weavers. They are usually 
paid in kind or in coin, whichever the people can afford. 

Another subsidiary occupation is provided by the ringal industry 
which supplies the hill people with baskets and other containers for 
storing agricultural produce. These are locally made by the people 
from ringals (arundinaria species], a light species of bamboo grown in 
some parts of the hills. Villages which do not possess ringal in the neigh- 
bourhood procure them from those where it is grown and a regular 
system of barter prevails betweeen two or more villages. Ringal is 
usually brought in exchange of grain. The people who sell ringal 
get it free from the forests and charge only for their labour from the 
buyers. 

From the list of occupations we have described above, it will 
appear that the people have not much scope to supplement their income 
from agriculture. The hill economy is of the self-sufficing type and 
the standard of living in the hills is low. The few subsidiary occupa- 
tions the hill people follow do not engage them throughout the year 
and much of their time is spent on feasts and festivities or in travels 
undertaken partly from necessity and partly in connection with 
important festivals and pilgrimages. The little surplus they have of 
the agricultural produce, they either sell to the shopkeepers in return 
for some of their pressing necessities, such as gur, salt, clothes and 
implements of agriculture. When the shopkeepers refuse to pay the 
price demanded, the hill men have to walk long distances with their 
grain carried in leather bags to be exchanged for necessaries or for 
cash. Thus the cash they get by the sale of grain is not much, for it is 
limited by the quantity of grain they can conveniently carry. When 
they return home with the money, they keep it for future emergencies 
or for paying rnalguzari. Thus money does not circulate much in 
Jaunsar-Bawar. The presence of shopkeepers at different centres -in 
Jaunsar-Bawar, who are mostly immigrants from Dehra Dun, Saharan- 



THE KHASAS 133 

pur and other far oft" places, has made it possible for the villagers to 
exchange their wares without having to undertake long journeys., but 
the price they get in return is not remunerative. The shopkeepers 
who receive the produce from the villagers do not always send them 
to the town. There is a local demand for such commodities as 
local labourers, thikadars or contractors and travellers require them 
and find it convenient to buy from the shopkeepers. 

The Jaunsaris are voracious eaters. They ordinarily take 
food three or four times a day, and on festive occasions they are 
incredible gluttons. When they are full themselves, they are mag- 
nanimous to others as well and every householder entertains his neigh- 
bours and feeds them on sheep which they keep in a room and which 
they fatten on oak leaves. Wine and meat are the most popular items 
of their diet and all castes including the Brahmin take meat. Fish 
is not always available, but where it is, it is in great demand. 
Jaunsaris take pride in giving feasts and try to excel one another 
in providing rich and delicious menus. Ordinarily their breakfast 
consists of a heavy meal of dalpuri or fried puris stuffed with dal. The 
mid-day meal consists of cakes prepared from the flour of marsha or 
cholai; the third meal is of wheat bread taken before dusk and is usually 
light. Some families may take the third meal before going to bed. 
Rice; dal and game form the menu of this meal. The poorer families 
do not get so much to eat and the quality of their food is inferior. 
The coarser millet, leaves of amaranth and wild vegetables form their 
simple food, while rice and urad are considered luxuries which they 
can ill afford. Pigs and fowls are freely eaten by the lower castes, 
but even the higher castes have overcome their scruples against 
eating poultry which they often rear themselves. 

The Khasas are extremely fond of drink; they brew their own 
liquor and drink to excess. On the occasion of marriage and festivals, 
they booze day and night. Two kinds of indigenous drinks are locally 
made. One is called dam or sur which is a distilled liquor, the other is 
pakin or undis tilled. A special kind of bread is required to prepare 
daru. Four to five species of roots (pissar, athu, pepper, etc.) 
are powdered in an ukhli and the powder is mixed with flour. The 
mixture is kneaded with water and made into wet bread. The rolls 



134 Trt FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE 

of breads are arranged in layers with bhang leaves placed above and 
below each piece and are kept in a dry place for two weeks or more. 
Later on these rolls are put in the sun for further drying after which 
they are stored in the house for future use. This bread is known as kirn. 

The ordinary bread prepared from coarser millets which is the 
common food of the poorer class is broken into pieces and put in a 
big spherical earthen vat with water enough to cover them. The 
contents of this vat are daily stirred by the women till the 
bread is completely dissolved. The kirn bread prepared by the 
process described above is put in this solution and the liquid is kept 
aside for a week or so and stirred every day as usual. When the 
liquid turns sour, which it does after a week or ten days, it is distilled 
through an indigenous apparatus. The distilled liquor is called 
daru and is used on ceremonial occasions, feasts and on festival days. 

The other kind of drink is prepared out of the flour of jhangora 
(a kind of inferior millet) which is mixed .with water and allowed 
to stand over for three months or more. After this period kirn bread 
is added to the mixture and the contents stand for about another 
fortnight. It is then strained and used for the daily needs of the 
family. The precipitate is made into cakes and eaten. 

Elaborate methods of preparing food are found in Jaunsar- 
Bawar. Not only do the people take a large quantity of food, they 
also know how to cater to the palate. There arc more than a dozen 
varieties of bread made and each festival has its own kind. From 
the list of festivals in Jaunsar-Bawar it appears that many of these 
are associated with particular processes of preparing food and its dis- 
tribution to friends and relations forms the main function of many 
festivals. 

Besides the ordinary kinds of breads described above., the 
Jaunsaries prepare a kind of bread known as sira. This is made in 
the month of Pus on the Sira or Siriya festival day. Urad and masur 
are soaked in water, the husks drop off and the soaked pulses are 
powdered and made into paste with water. This paste forms the 
stuffing of the bread and the baked rolls are extremely delicious. An- 
other delicacy is prepared by roasting lumps of kneaded flour. These 
are wrapped in leaves, put in the oven and when all the leaves are 



THE KHASAS 135 

nearly burnt, the roasted mass inside is ready for eating. Various 
kinds of halwa are also made. Barley meal or flour of millets and 
wheat is mixed with water and cooled with milk, ghee and gur or 
sugar. This preparation can be kept for a number of days as it 
becomes hard enough not to turn bad. Puris are usually prepared 
during festivals and they are sent as samun or presents to relations and 
friends. Puris are made in the way known all over India, but a special 
kind is also prepared by the Jaunsaris keeping the kneaded mass of 
flour in water for 24 hours or more. This variety has a peculiar 
flavour due to fermentation. 

Though the ordinary diet of the Jaunsari is simple and does 
not display any great originality in preparation, the various dishes 
they make during festivals and ceremonies are rich in flavour 
and in ghee and they take unusual care to see that their guests, 
friends and relations get the best entertainment possible. Every 
family keeps one or more sheep shut up in the goat pen hidden from 
public gaze and fattened on oak leaves. For months the sheep 
remains inside the room so that even the nearest neighbour does not 
know what is in store for him during the annual feast to which he is 
likely to be invited. Superstitious beliefs are also current among the 
hill people about the influence of the evil spirits, the evil eye and the 
evil mouth, and this practice is said to guarantee the safety and growth 
of the animals. 

I have described at some length the economic activities of the 
people, the methods by which they eke out their subsistence, the 
hardships attending their occupations, the rigour of the climate and 
the attempts of the people to get used to them. I have also indicated 
the means of exchange and distribution, the co-operative efforts 
willingly undertaken by the people for the common good of the village 
or a group of villages, the skilful devices with which they face nature 
and her niggardliness. I have also described incidentally their attitude 
to life, to their friends and relations, to the environment in which they 
have grown up. The descriptive account given above may give an 
impression that life in the cis-Himalaj'an region is not so full of hard- 
ships, but as we shall presently see the account already given does not 
imply that the average Khasa family is well off economically. 



136 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

As money does not circulate much in the hills, and the volume 
of exchange done by money is insignificant compared even to that 
obtainable in the rural parts in the plains, the standard of comforts 
enjoyed by people is not very high. The average family is inured 
to a hand-to-mouth existence and the expense on food and feasting 
is the only accountable use they make of their yield from the fields 
and of any supplementary income they may secure. The construction 
of shelters for the family and the decoration of their persons exhaust 
all the reserves they possess. As their resources are meagre, life is 
pretty hard for them in these cold regions. The gods they own are 
not always sympathetically disposed towards them, for reward is not 
proportional to efforts. By tradition, their gods are known to be rest- 
less, like the palanquin in which they are ceremonially carried every 
year, rolling and swinging this way and that. One year the Jaunsaris 
get a bumper yield from the fields, in another year they have nothing 
at all. Nature in these cold heights often conspires with the gods of 
their own make and shows her tooth and claw in the niggardliness of 
her favours. Yet the small terraces are carefully worked, water is 
brought from higher levels and a perfect husbandry of manure, water 
and rotation of crops is effected. 

People have to keep cattle and sheep. The grazing of cattle 
and sheep on the slopes of the hills and on the higher altitudes keeps 
the men busy during the major part of the day. Carrying dung 
and other manures from the grazing areas to the terraced fields is 
exacting labour, the shearing of wool, spinning and weaving have to 
be done by themselves, the marketing of produce and barter and 
exchange require co-operative effort while ceremonial undertakings 
and festivals require joint effort and voluntary subscriptions to the 
common pool. Thus life inJaunsar-Bawar is full of hardships and had 
it not been for their joint family institutions, the fate of the Jaunsaris 
would have been very much different as they themselves would tell 
you. 

The social structure in Jaunsar-Bawar is characterised by a 
dual organization of economic classes, w*., the zemindars and the 
artisans. The latter, however, should not be confused with similar 
groups in the plains, for they are recruited mostly from the aboriginal 




Not for ittf for 




A in one is 

in 




A way side shop en ike 






Sky on elt hills 










for 



THE KHASAS 137 

substratum and mostly belong to a group known by the generic name 
of Dom. Whereas in the plains the artisan classes own land, and" 
when they do not, they have the right of its use, in Jaunsar-Bawar the 
local code forbids a Dom from holding land either as te'riant or as 
zemindar. On the lowest rung of the economic ladder, is the domestic 
Kolta who is the hereditary hewer of wood and drawer of water. He 
does not own any land, lives attached to his master, the zemindar, and 
is given food and drink by him. He lives in a houSe provided by his 
master who also bears his other expenses, if any. Anything other 
than food and clothing, if provided by the family retaining him, is 
converted into a cash advance which he has to pay back should he wish 
to change his master or seek some other employment. The expenses 
of his marriage, of death in his family, of any ornaments he wants to 
make for his wife and all that he spends at festivals or for propitiating 
the evil spirits and gods who meddle with his life and happiness, are 
borne by this master and the debts he owes on these accounts mount 
up till his future and that of his progeny are mortgaged indefinitely 
without any prospect of redemption. When he works in the village, 
he is given some bread in the morning, and when he returns from the 
field in the afternoon, he gets either cooked rice or a measure of cholai 
or marsha out of which he prepares cakes. When he takes out the 
cattle to graze on the hill slopes, he has often to remain there for 
days and his supply consists of the coarser millets such asjhangora or 
leaves of the amaranth, which are boiled with lentils or a little rice. 
His house is within a reasonable distance from that of his master so 
that he may be available whenever required. If he is married, his 
wife has certain duties allotted to her and often has to drudge to 
earn her food. 

All over the cis-Himalayan region, the Simla states, the Doon 
valley, Kulu and Kangara valleys there exists a hierarchy of social 
status, though the rigidity of the caste system as in the plains does hot 
exist. The upper class consists of the Bhat, Dethi, Deva and Kanet; 
the lower strata is composed of innumerable social groups who form 
the artisan elements in the population of these 'parts. The 'Ltohar, 
the Bajgir, the Turi, the Dumra, the Badi, the Koli and the Koltas 
are a few of the groups serving the upper classes mentioned above. 

J8 



138 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

These suffer from a number of disabilities and are treated as serfs 
or dependants and thus provide a dual organisation of economic 
classes in the hills. The feudal type of land settlement provides 
for the possession of land by the upper classes only and has 
received some sort of religious sanction. Even temples are 
denied to the artisan castes. The latter serve the higher castes of 
the locality in a number of ways and accept the limitations of their 
movements designed and imposed on them by their landlords who 
are Bhats, Kanets, Devas or Dethis. 

The Bhats and Kanets^ who are Brahmins and Rajputs, res- 
pectively, profess and perform the duties and obligations peculiar to 
the Brahmins of the plains but they practise at the same time many 
of the rites and customs which are shunned by the Brahmins of the 
plains. The Kanets claim certain privileges which the Brahmins of 
the plains enjoy and intermarriage between the Brahmins and Rajputs 
is not barred by rules of caste endogamy. In an interesting account 
of the marital relations in the trans-Giri tract, Mr. Y. S. Farmer has 
described the dynamics of caste in the Sirmoor state in the Simla 
hills.* In Giri-Par a Kanet Rajput is not allowed to officiate as priest 
in any temple, but the Bhats and the Devas are. The Devas get their 
name from their occupation as temple priest. But in Mail Kanets 
can become Devas . In Charna Bhuaee also, Kanets can become 
priests of Shirigul. 

When a Kanet is appointed to officiate in a temple he earns the 
title of Negi and thereafter marries among the Negies and would 
not marry a Kanetni. Both the Kanets and Bhats in the cis-Giri 
tract would refuse drinking water from the hands of a Koli. In 
trans-Giri tract, however, the Bhats and Kanets do take water from 
the hands of the Kolis, but it must be served in a metal pot or a glass. 
In the cis-Himalayan region descendants of Rajputs by artisan women 
are given an inferior status in the hill society. The Brahmins of these 
parts are not orthodox, as has already been pointed out; they take' 
meat as all the hill people do and they marry their widows, a practice 
which their colleagues in the plains will certainly not countenance. 



*Y. S. Farmer, 'Marital Relations in the trans-Giri tract'; thesis submitted for the Doctorate 
Pegree at Lucknow University to be published soon. 



THE KHASAS 139 

The Rajputs of the hills are lower in status to those of the plains, but 
they enjoy privileges seldom allowed by custom to the latter. 

The inter-marriage of Rajputs and Bhats has been a recognised 
practice here and though the children of a Kanet woman by a Bhat 
receive affiliation to the mother's caste, in course of time such chil- 
dren have been raised to the status of Brahmins and have been allowed 
to officiate as priests in temples. The paucity of women in these parts, 
coupled with the practice of female infanticide among the Bhats, 
which may be the cause or effect or both of the unsettled conditions of 
life in the hills, has no doubt encouraged intermarriage with the Kanets, 
who were more practical in their attitude towards their children. The 
word Kanet is derived from kunia het or love for daughters, which 
obviously refers to the non-practising of female infanticide. Widow 
remarriage is practised by the Rajputs and Bhats of the hills and even 
divorce is a recognised practice and the custom of reet marriage among 
them has definitely lowered their caste status. 

From the point of view of social life, the whole of the cis- 
Himalayan region behaves as a culture area, as there is a homogeneous 
social code to which both the higher and lower groups subscribe. The 
disabilities that obtain in these parts among the lower castes in the 
matter of dress, food and drink, in the restrictions to marriage and 
inter-dining, are mostly superficial, and they have not affected the social 
relationships to any appreciable extent. But the hill culture differs 
from that of the plains and all the cultures that surround them, and 
it would be worthwhile acquainting ourselves with their customs 
and mode of living in order to be able to appraise the configuration ol 
their culture. 

The cultural life of these people has been deeply impressed b> 
their contacts with the lower strains, particularly the Doms, a generic 
name which includes the artisan elements in the population of the hills. 
Yet they do possess traits of culture which appear to be indigenous 
and which still claim popular approval. The Khasas are Hindus; 
their customary rites in temples, the manner and mode of offering 
sacrifices, daily religious performances, periodical festivals which are 
inter-locked by their calendar, the dim lighting, burning of incense, 
mysterious incantations and their 'memorizing of an amount of word* 



140 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE 

perfect ritual' and sing-song monologues, all indicate their Hindu 
origin, tradition in ritual and temple worship. They worship their 
gods in their temples. There are 33 crores of Hindu divinities and 
the gods of the Khasas also find a place in the Hindu pantheon. 

The ceremonial aspect of worship in the temples has been much 
exaggerated and not a day passes without some sort of communal 
offering to their gods. The priest officiates in the temple, morning and 
evening, prayers are offered to their gods, and the village drummers 
must play on their drums eight times during the day and night. There 
are temple dancers, Badinis, professional dancers who dance daily 
before the gods, and sacrifice of goat or buffaloes is made to them to 
ward off dangers to the village or to individual families. The meat 
as prasad is distributed to the families in the village and there are 
traditional ways of distributing meat which smack of feudal 
days. 

The Khasas have their masked dances they put on the masks 
of the Pandava brothers and parade up and down the village in pro- 
cession, promising protection and help to those needing them. The 
soothsayer and diviner foretell the events of their lives and prayers 
and offerings are made to their gods in temples to propitiate the 
offended ones and to worship those who are expected to bestow favours. 
Calenderic observances, pilgrimage to Hanoi, the abode of Mahasu, 
the god of their gods, and frequent feasts and festivals with appro- 
priate music characterise their ceremonial life. 

The priest has to memorize the rituals; the hymns and formulas 
have to be perfectly uttered and interpreted to the admiring crowd 
and the various movements of the body in response to the requirements 
of the rituals have to be carefully regulated so that he may not fail the 
expectations of the devotees. There is a perfect understanding among 
the people of the purpose and functions of dovetailed ceremonies, the 
role of priesthood, the rhythmic movements of the priestly figure in 
presence of the gods, the importance of the drummers who beat the 
accustomed time, of the endless formalities in their daily ministrations 
to the gods. The dancers have their duties traditionally prescribed 
and the women of the village who want favours of their gods or who 
require to offer their prayers in grateful recognition of immediate 



THE KHASAS 141 

blessings, have their own time of approaching their gods with offerings 
which they reach the priests with'appropriate formalities. 

Every morning or evening women of certain families are seen 
dancing in front of the temples in grateful recognition of divine bless- 
ings they have received and the temples in big villages keep the doors 
wide open to receive their homage. When gods do not speak their 
voice, the priests do, and the villagers learn with fear or cheer the 
thunderings of their gods or the blessings that may come to them. 
Some masked dancers are skilful impersonators, and by their adept 
rhythmic displays of movements, instill confidence in their votaries 
and they are heard with rapt attention by the latter. Such is their 
acquaintance with the details of their ceremonial life that no slip or 
mistake in the rendering of the hymns or the processes of the ritual 
or the order of the ceremonies goes unnoticed and the officiating 
priest, his assistants, and those who order the rituals have to remedy 
their acts of omission and commission by a repetition of the formula 
or rendering of the dovetailed rituals. Omissions are ominous to 
the village and purposeful cutting short of elaborate rituals is not 
tolerated. If this happens, the news spreads by whispers and the 
whole village gets upset over such incompetence. 

The territorial unit in Jaunsar-Bawar is the village. Each 
village has a headman or sayana, but he is not the elected chief. 
Originally he was nominated by the sadar sayana but his office today 
has become hereditary and he is subordinate to the sadar sayana. 
Remnants of a feudal system are still discernible in the tenures of 
Jaunsar-Bawar. The sadar sayana who was in earlier days known 
as thokdar is the overlord and is responsible for the management of 
the khat or patli. He represents his hhat in all its relations with the 
local administration. The Khasas are believed to be immigrants in 
Jaunsar-Bawar. They appear to have come in nomadic hordes 
each under a thokdar. The families which constituted the nomadic 
group settled down in different villages but acknowledge the authority 
of the thokdar. His importance as leader of an immigrant horde was 
recognised by the villages and he received many services and contri- 
butions from his party men in the shape of gifts and customary dues 
payable to him on important occasions and festivals. Each family 



142 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRlfiES 

had to give 12 days' free labour in a year to the thokdar. When a 
child was born in a family, the thokdar received a gift; when a girl was 
married he received something; when a new house was built he was 
offered a present by the family concerned; when a sheep was killed by 
a family a leg was sent to him. In return for these considerations or 
tributes, the thokdar looked after the interest of the villagers in his khat 
and organized defence against raiders, settled disputes as arbitrator 
and undertook to defend the rights and privileges of the families own- 
ing him allegiance. To-day the sadar sayana or thokdar does not wield 
much influence and the village sayana has asserted himself and has 
secured greater rights and privileges than were enjoyed by his 
predecessors. 

The village community consists of a group of proprietary cul- 
tivators known as zemindars. They are also called mauroosi cultivators 
as opposed to gair-mauroosi or under-cultivators. The latter cannot 
alienate the land and are to all intents and purposes tenants. When 
they give up the land, it reverts to the proprietary body. When 
the zemindars give up their own lands, the co-owners exercise the right 
of preemption. The zemindars are Khasas who cultivate their 
holdings themselves with the help of a number of agricultural serfs 
called Koltas whom they maintain and who can demand to be 
maintained by them. 

The political importance of the thokdar was immense in earlier 
days and the control he exercised on the people of his khat was a matter 
of great concern to the administration. In the native states where 
the system was more developed, political expediency necessitated 
divesting the thokdar of some of his rights and privileges. Tactless 
handling of the situation led to trouble in some states, but with the 
gradual tightening of central authority, the thokdar lost much of his 
pristine status and today he is not a force even in his own khat. Bereft 
of his political authority, he is still an important link between the 
village headman and the administration and has been used to the 
advantages of the latter. With the weakening of the hold of the 
thokdar or sadar sayana , the khat panchayat consisting of the say anas of all 
the villages in the khat over which he presides has lost its jurisdiction 
and influence and disputes between two villages are not usually 



THE KHA8AS 143 

referred to the khat panchayat but are settled by the panchayat of the 
two villages concerned. 

The village panchayat is a body of three to five persons presided 
over by the sayana who is the sir panch. The elders who constitute 
the panchayat are drawn from elderly men selected for their tact and 
experience. Knowledge of men and matters, sojourn in foreign lands 
and experience as functionaries of the Government in some capacity 
or other are some of the necessary qualifications for membership of 
the panchayat. This organisation is more or less permanent without 
any recognised constitution or procedure. Its proceedings are 
informal and it meets whenever there is an occasion to do so. The 
panchayat acts as an arbitrator in disputes and its machinery is 
successfully utilized to organize periodical festivals, fix dates of cere- 
monies, collect subscriptions for such purposes, look to the supply 
of water for the village and for irrigation, to supervise the morals of 
the villagers and to assist the village headman in the discharge of 
his duties and responsibilities. 

In one case which was decided in our presence a girl was 
betrothed to a young man by her father and the latter received a 
tando or earnest money of Re. 1. A few weeks later there was an 
altercation between the bride's father and the uncle of the bridegroom- 
to-be, and the former called off the match and married his daughter 
to a third party. The panchayat of the khat was informed and the father 
of the girl was fined Rs. 60 and was asked to give a feast to the 
aggrieved party and the panchayat. If a Kolta, Chamar or a member 
of an artisan caste is found to elope with the wife of a Rajput or a 
Brahmin, exemplary punishment is meted out to the man and any- 
body who harbours the couple or aids them is severely punished. 
A heavy fine or har is imposed by the panchayat varying from Rs. 125 
to Rs. 300 or more, and this amount when realised from the offender 
is divided equally between the aggrieved husband and the members 
of the village. If the offender does not pay up, the couple must leave 
the country. If, however, the man who elopes with another man's 
wife can prove his previous intimacy with the girl, the amount of fine 
is reduced considerably. 

When a person belonging to the higher castes seduces a woman 



144 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

of similar social status, he has to pay a fine of Rs. 60 only. A low 
caste man who commits such an offence can be kept by a khatdar on 
payment of a tvergeld. Offences against property, such as the theft 
of sheep, goats, etc., are usually dealt with by the panchayat and if 
the culprit is traced he is asked to make good the theft and pay a 
fine. In a case of theft in the village of Jadi, the thief who stole a goat 
was asked to pay back five goats of which two were given to the owner 
and the remaining three to the panchayat and the village, who celebrated 
the occasion with a grand feast. Whenever any partition of 
property is made by the panchayat, the sayana receives as his share 
one sheep, one goat, one metal utensil, one piece of weapon and 
Rs. 5 in cash. The panchayat receives Rs. 5 and the villagers Rs. 2, 
but in the case of poor families, these fees are considerably reduced 
and sometimes no payment at all is made. 

The Khasas are a patrilocal people with patrilineal inheritance 
and patronymic designation. Each village stands as a social unit and 
is usually exogamous. The joint family system prevails. A group 
of brothers live together with one, two or more wives under the same 
roof, the brothers sharing the wives in common, without exclusive 
rights of cohabitation with any one wife. The eldest of a group of 
brothers wields a dominating influence in the domestic affairs of the 
family of which he is the social as well as the ceremonial head. It 
is to him that the other brothers have to turn for advice and 
guidance. He determines the duties of the brothers, and provides the 
necessities of the family while the rest of the brothers have to obey 
him and hand over to him their individual earnings. If a brother 
wants to marry any particular girl of his choice, the eldest brother 
goes through the ceremony of marriage with the girl and he may 
assign the bride to the particular brother. 

If there is a dispute between two brothers, which may occur 
on account of rivalry and jealousy between them the eldest brother 
arbitrates and his decision is final. If he asks the common wife not 
to bestow her favours on any of the brothers, the aggrieved brother 
normally has no appeal to any higher body in the village. Society 
upholds the dignity of the eldest brother. The alternative is chaos 
which the society dares not encourage. The children of the joint 



THE KHASAS 145 

family of a group of brothers are maintained by the family and paternity 
is decided by a useful convention. The eldest born child is attributed 
to the eldest brother, and the next child to the second, and so on. 
In case of a dispute between brothers, which may arise when one of 
the fathers wants. to live apart and start a new establishment, the 
joint wife may be asked to name the fathers of her children; alterna- 
tively the husbands of the joint wife may draw lots to determine the 
paternity of children born to the family. 

If four brothers have one wife between them and four or five 
children are born, and one of the younger brothers marries again, the 
children usually remain with the woman who is not allowed to go to 
the younger brother. She must live with the other brothers, but the 
children are entitled to equal shares of property from all brothers 
including the one who marries again. If the other brothers wish to 
separate, the eldest brother has to bear the expenses of their marriage 
as well. 

Although in a polyandrous society which swings between 

polygamy and monandry, partition of property and succession to it 

must be of great practical difficulty, yet in practice there are few 

occasions for dispute and cases of succession and inheritance are not 

frequent. So long as the prevailing pattern of the society is based 

on polyandry and there is not any stigma on such forms of marital 

life the family remains undivided and partition of family property 

' becomes unnecessary; the group of fathers jointly own a wife and her 

sons, nor are the latter ashamed to confess their allegiance to a group 

of fathers. It has been noticed that a son who claims his parentage 

to a group of fathers is given a special status and he proudly asserts this 

in presence of others. Children have been found to discuss their 

parents freely, their mother's attachments to a particular father and 

even the sexual indulgence the fathers receive from their joint wife. 

Words to the effect of f my mother will sleep with my father to-night;' 

'she does not care for this or that person', can be frequently heard 

from children and questions regarding their family are answered with 

a naughty wink which shows absence of any restraint or training 

of children. The father of a young man approached me to let 

his son go home (he was working as my interpreter) as his 

19 



146 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

young wife was to sleep with his son that night and she was waiting 
for him ! 

The status as well as the strength of the family is derived from the 
group of fathers who own the child., so that the larger the group of 
fathers, the greater the prestige of the child, for greater must be the 
protection assured him. The same appears to be the case with women. 
A woman considers herself extremely lucky if she can lay her claims 
to maintenance by a number of husbands. They sympathise with one 
who has to live with one or two husbands only. The idea of security 
perhaps is also at the root of the choice, for one man cannot cater to the 
comforts of a wife unless he is assisted by a number of domestic 
servants. Considering the expenses of keeping a family of Kolta, a 
man of ordinary circumstances has to go without servants and thus 
he has to depend on the labours of his wife who may not cherish such 
prospects. 'How can a young wife sleep alone ?' asked a smart 
girl; "I would not care to live in the house of my husbands if I have 
to do so." In 90 cases out of 100, I was told by the elderly men of 
the villages I had visited, the wife leaves for her father's village till 
her husband or husbands return and reassume their obligations. Many 
young wives openly sympathised with our wives and disapproved of 
our conduct, some suggesting that we would find our houses empty 
when we went back certainly not a bright prospect for a field an- 
thropologist. 

Succession and inheritance in a polyandrous family pass colla- 
terally so long as any of the brothers who own the joint establishment 
is alive. It is only after the death of the brothers that the joint pro- 
perty descends to the sons as heirs. In cases where the group of brothers 
marrying more than one wife have no male issue, the heirs are allowed 
to have a joint interest in the property, and after their death the pro- 
perty passes on to the nearest collaterals. To-day cases of partition 
of property are cropping up on account of the knowledge of law 
courts, disseminated by touts and litigants, and the frequent visits the 
people make to Chakrata, Mussoorie and other neighbouring urban 
centres, as well as on account of a nascent individualism finding ex- 
pression in their growing conventions and comforts. But the disputes 
are usually settled outside the law courts and the village panchavats 



THE KHASA$ 147 

still possess sufficient prestige and influence to make their decisions 
binding on the people. 

When brothers want to separate, the property is equally divided 
among them though in practice the shares of the eldest and youngest 
of the brothers are usually greater than that of the rest. It is in the 
matter of wives that partition becomes difficult. For example if 4 
brothers possess 2 wives between them, partition would not be possible, 
and it usually happens that the elder brothers keep the two wives to 
themselves but allow compensation to other brothers to enable them 
to marry and set up independent households. In a number of cases 
the wives preferred to live with the younger brothers, the eldest ones 
have had to go in for new wives. It is not for sexual considerations that 
elderly wives prefer to live with younger brothers, the helplessness of 
the latter and the affection with which they were held by their wives 
some of whom are old enough to be their mother, decide in their 
favour. Therefore partition affects the elder brothers who become 
very accommodating and allow sufficient liberty in sex matters 
which otherwise become inexplicable. 

Where a group of brothers marrying two to three wives in suc- 
cession can raise no issue, the property after their death may be inheri- 
ted by the wife or wives, provided that they do not remarry, though 
no objection is usually taken if they secure some partners to live with 
them and share their earnings. Such cases are common in most parts 
of the Himalayas (Kangra District Gazetteer, quoted in LindelPs Weekly, 
Simla, May 30, 1925). After the death of the wife, the property re- 
verts to the collaterals as the latter are not bound by any transaction 
entered into by the wife who has only a life interest in the property. 

In the trans-Giri tract custom allows a widow to make a will, 
provided, during her lifetime when she required help from her hus- 
band's brothers or collaterals, help was not given to her, which 
fact has to be proved to the satisfaction of the panchayat; the 
matter when dragged to the court must be proved to the latter's 
satisfaction. Within one year of her making such a will if the interest- 
ed parties contest the will, the court may direct the parties to 
disprove the allegation of the woman. Should they fail, the will is 
declared valid. A woman can have an illegitimate child during the 



148 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

lifetime of the husband, and even if the child is born a year or more 
after the husband's death, the child is posthumously fathered upon 
by the deceased husband, and he becomes the rightful heir to his 
property. Such cases are rare no doubt, but considering the impor- 
tance of male children among the Khasas and the general paucity of 
children, illegitimate ones are welcomed as saviours of family prestige, 
the effect being the increase of sexual excesses and license. 

On account of polyandry and in spite of a shortage of adult 
women, there is still a surplus of women in this area which is dispos- 
ed of in marriage to people from the plains. The bride price 
charged is proportionate to the physical beauty of the bride and 
fluctuates with the economic prosperity or otherwise of the 
prospective candidates. 

In determining the shares of the brothers at the time of parti- 
tion of property, some consideration is shown to the eldest and 
youngest of the brothers who receive an extra share each on account 
of the customary practice ofjithong and kanchong. Under these rules, 
the eldest brother gets from one to three kachcha bighas of land 
more than the share each of the other brothers gets by partition. 
The eldest brother is also allowed to select the best bigha or 
two out of the ancestral property. Where kanchong is in vogue, the 
youngest brother gets the ancestral house or a part of the dwelling 
and also an extra share in the farming land. 

"There are traces of this custom which still lingers among us 
under the name of Borough English, in the more settled communities 
of the hills/' writes T. C. Hodson (Primitive Culture of India p. 23), 
"and one large Naga group, the Semas, contrary to the usual Naga 
order has hereditary chiefs, the elder sons becoming chiefs in their 
own villages during the father's lifetime, provided the sons are able 
to found separate villages, and one of the younger sons probably suc- 
ceeding in his father's village." (Hutton The Angami Nagas p. 358). 
Among the Lushei Kuki clans, (The Lushei Kuki Clans p. 43), the 
youngest son usually succeeds to the chieftainship as during the life 
time of the father the other brothers are assisted by the father to 
establish separate villages and rule there, though recognizing an 
obligation to assist the chief, their father, in any quarrel with neigh- 



THE KHASAS 149 

bouring chiefs. How far kanchong is modelled on the Naga pattern 
is difficult to determine:, but the basic fact is supplied, probably in the 
similar tribal organisation in both the areas, for among the Khasas 
as also among the Nagas the tribal society is composed of a number of 
wandering hordes,, with a thokdar or sayana or a clan chief at its head 
and similar arrangements were necessitated by the Khasas and the 
Naga and Kuki clans to help establish the sons of chiefs or thokdars. 
The Toda and Badaga custom is similar, though a different explana- 
tion for this has been given by Lowie (Primitive Society p. 239). The 
elder sons marry and set up separate household in different villages, 
but the youngest one has to remain with the father till the latter grows 
old and require his services. In recognition of this, the father's pro- 
perty is passed on to the youngest son, who is the natural heir of the 
family. Where landed property is not recognised or is of minor 
importance, as for example among pastoral tribes like the Todas, the 
youngest son receives an extra buffalo on partition, which compensates 
for the start the elder brother has received during the lifetime of their 
common father. 

In many matriarchal societies, notably among the Khasis and 
the Garos, the youngest daughter is the heir to the family property. 
The Garo would marry the youngest daughter to his sister's son who 
comes to live with the matriarchal family. Economic considera- 
tions often engender social habits and these may be taken as examples 
illustrating such rules. We are told by Col. Hodson that "the 
decrease in the size of the village had led to an important modification 
of the custom under which the youngest son inherits his father's 
village and property among the Nagas, for the villages are limited in 
number while the chief's family does not show any tendency to 
decrease, and enough villages are not available for all the sons to go 
round." "Indeed," observed the 1911 Census Report (Vol. Ill, 
page 138), "in some cases none of the sons have been able to start a 
separate village, and it is obvious that under these circumstances 
inheritance should pass to the eldest son and its change has been 
readily accepted by the people." 

The culture of the Khasas of Jaunsar-Bawar has been deeply 
impressed by their contacts with the Doms or the aboriginal element 



150 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

in the population. The Doms belong mostly to an early racial strain, 
and their cultural life greatly resembles that of the various tribes of 
pre-Dravidian or early Mediterranean origin. While the Khasas 
claim to be Hindus and recently they have been fast adopting 
Hindu surnames and trying to establish connection with the Rajputs 
and Brahmins of the plains (their contacts with the outsiders have 
taught them the importance of their claims) their social life as well 
as their beliefs and practices connected with their religion do not 
identify them with the Hindus of the plains. They re-marry their 
widows, practise levirate, sorrorate and polyandry, recognize divorce 
as legal, while intermarriage between the various Khasa groups is 
not tabooed and children born of such marriages do not suffer any 
social stigma. While they worship Hindu gods and goddesses, they 
have a partiality for ancestor spirits, queer and fantastic demons and 
gods and for the worship of stones, weapons, dyed rags and symbols. 
The sun, the moon and the constellations are their gods. The sun is 
male and moon is female. The moon's pride on account of her great 
beauty and her insulting behaviour towards the sun on that score, 
it is believed, provoked the latter's wrath and his curse had the effect 
of disfiguring the moon's face resulting in spots which are said to be 
the marks of leprosy to which the Khasas of today are often victims. 

The Hindu belief that the earth rests on the head of a snake, 
Sheshnag, finds its counterpart in Jaunsar-Bawar and earthquakes are 
believed to be caused by the periodical movements of the giant 
snake. The Mundas believe that the eclipses of the sun or moon 
occur when their creditors surround the sun or moon for the debts 
of the Mundas and this' represents the typical belief about eclipse 
among all the Austric speaking tribes in India. Among the Khasas 
the sun and moon are said to have borrowed money from a Dom, 
but the interest swelled to such amount that it could not be paid and 
the debt was repudiated. The Dom on that account worries them 
often by throwing a skin on their face. 

Though the average Khasa is always in debt, the stigma attach- 
ing to persons of higher castes who borrow from the Dom is great in 
Jaunsar-Bawar and elders belonging to the higher castes do not 
tolerate such practices in the village. The customary raising of 



THEKHASAS 151 

menhirs and other stone memorials among the Khasas appears to be 
a relic of a megalithic cult which is an important phase of primitive 
culture in India. The Khasas appear to have in all probability 
borrowed this custom from the aboriginal element in these parts. It is 
customary to construct a terraced platform near a public thorough-fare 
on which they place a single upright stone to commemorate the dead. 

The belief in transmigration of souls and in the doctrine of 
metempsychosis is an important feature of their religious life. They 
believe that the soul has to pass through as many as 840,000 forms 
including those of animals and insects and the activities of man on 
earth are carefully recorded by Yama whose messengers have to 
present the souls before him. As Dharmraj, Yama determines the 
form which a particular soul would pass into., in accordance with 
its activities on earth. 

The religion of the Khasas is a curious blend of Hindu and 
tribal beliefs and practices and a functional analysis of these is sure to 
provide interesting material. Nowhere perhaps are magic and 
religion so closely interlaced and interwoven as in Jaunsar-Bawar. 
Magic plays an important role in the life of the hill people by giving 
them confidence in times of danger and crisis and by providing the 
incentive to organised undertakings. Not only in the main occupations 
of the people like agriculture and lumbering, in ordinary day-to-day 
life too, magic is potent and effective. The importance of the evil eye 
and the evil tongue is recognised by the hill people and oaths and 
ordeals have a significance hardly paralleled in savage society. It is 
possible to effect injury to person or to cattle or both by magical 
practices, to cause death in a family by mere swearing as they believe, 
and to cause houses to be burnt by magic. 

The courts of justice recognise the importance of oaths and 
ordeals and when the necessary evidence in a civil case is not forth- 
coming the parties are allowed to decide the issue by means of oaths 
and ordeals. In some cases the defendant in a money suit will keep 
the sum of money before the image of the goddess Kali or in any temple 
dedicated to Mahasu, their great god, and the plaintiff is asked to take 
the money. Should the defendant want to prove that the money he 
owes has been paid by him, he drinks the water in which the feet of 



152 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

the devata are dipped and this is taken as evidence to the effect that the 
money has been paid by the defendant. In other cases, the plaintiff 
will light a lamp in a temple and the amount alleged to be due to him 
will be put before it which would be claimed from the debtor concern- 
ed. If a villager bears a grudge against his neighbour and he wants to 
harm him or his effects, he takes a clod of earth from his field and lays 
it on the altar of Mahasu and prays for an immediate judgment. 
Should this neighbour meet with an accident or domestic trouble, he 
would leave his field as otherwise the god invoked by his enemy may 
cause a greater calamity to fall on him. The consequence of dis- 
honesty and false statement on oath is terrible as the person is sure to 
be affected with insanity or leprosy, or some great calamity may occur 
in his family, or he may die an unnatural death within a short period 
from the commission of the offence. 

People who are notorious for their wickedness are supposed to 
possess some power either inherent in them or derivatively acquired. 
They are known to abuse people and swear against them on the slightest 
or no pretext and the belief is that such persons can do harm as their 
ghat or swearing is usually very effective. There are certain gods whom 
wicked and anti -social people usually invoke to effect their nefarious 
designj on others. One such evil is narsin who is extremely mischiev- 
ous and is readily invoked to harm or destroy cattle and crops and 
to afflict people with diseases. The baki or diviner has to get in touch 
with this spirit and propitiate it whenever it is suspected of doing 
a mischief. Though it is a criminal offence in Jaunsar-Bawar to call 
any person a 'witch', it is common knowledge in these parts that 
witches exist, and whenever any person meets with any misfortune or 
contracts any serious illness, the members of his family may suspect 
any woman, young or old, to be responsible for it and she is dubbed 
a witch. From then she becomes an object of close attention in the 
villages and her family is branded as anti-social and consequently 
segregated from other families. 

The incidence of infant mortality is quite high in Jaunsar- 
Bawar and it is traced to the influence of certain evil spirits. These 
are always after children and women with child and their attention 
is followed by disease and death to their victims. There are people 



THE KHASAS i33 

especially versed in spirit lore who utter magic words and blow ashes 
over the child or woman believed to be affected by these spirits and this 
is considered potent enough to cure the affliction. When a preg- 
nant woman falls ill, it is believed to be due to the mischief caused 
by certain evil spirits and the woman has to undergo a course of treat- 
ment prescribed by the baki or ghadiala (witch-doctor)). With her 
hair dishevelled and forehead painted lavishly with vermillion, she 
is made to sit near the witch-doctor. The latter takes a bellmetal 
plate in his hand and starts beating it to time, uttering simultaneously 
a number of incantations in a peculiar sing-song tune. After half 
an hour or so the woman feels heavy, and starts shivering, indicating 
thereby that the spirit has entered her person. The woman shows 
signs of great animation and moves her limbs to and fro, attempting 
to rise on her toes and eventually starts dancing to the tune of the 
bellmetal music. Soon she forgets herself, her husbands and rela- 
tions, and is metamorphosed as it were into the spirit which has taken 
possession of her. 

The ghadiala addresses the spirit in the woman and the latter 
answers on behalf of the spirit. The source of the attack, the name of 
the spirit, the necessary offerings and sacrifices that would please it 
and any particular direction as to the manner and mode of disposal 
of the offerings, are mentioned by the possessed woman and it is believed 
that as soon as these are offered as directed the woman gets rid of the 
spirit possessing her. The spirit, however, leaves the victim in a 
spectacular manner. The woman shrieks or strikes herself with 
*a stick or makes violent attempts at escape and is often forcibly brought 
to rest by the people present. This and similar practices show the 
extent of the influence of tribal beliefs and practices on the cultural 
life of the Khasas. 

When epidemics invade a village, the resources of the village 
are freely requisitioned by the headman and custom prescribes an 
ashtabali or sacrifice of eight lives to appease the godling of disease. 
Five different approaches of the village are selected for the purpose and 
at each approach an improvized gate of bamboos is made. At the 
centre of each gate is fixed the wooden effigy of a monkey and a vertical 
slab of stone or menhir is firmly fixed in the earth. The menhir is 

20 



154 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

crowned with a large round stone and two pieces of wood with flat- 
tened ends are tied on either side of an upright slab., the whole resembl- 
ing a human figure from a distance. Five different sacrifices are 
offered at these approaches. At one, a goat is killed and buried 
near the menhir] at the second place a sheep is similarly sacrificed and 
buried. A hen., and a pig are sacrificed at the third and fourth approach- 
es, respectively, while at the fifth they cut a pumpkin into two and 
bury it similarly. After the sacrifices at the selected places, the 
villagers all assemble in the yard of the temple where a sheep and a 
vegetable (gindoro) are offered as sacrifice. The gindoro is cut into 
pieces and the sheep is killed and given to the Doms. A goat is sacri- 
ficed in the name of the village and the meat is distributed among the 
villagers. The elaborate rites of ashtabali are performed only when 
a major calamity is feared and the efficacy of this prescription is seldom 
questioned by the villagers. The village priest is in charge of this 
sacrifice and he cites hymns and prayers as well as magical incantations 
to invoke the aid of the gods. 

The Khasas do not appear to be much concerned with rewards 
and punishments in the world to come., but they observe a code of 
conduct which, if followed, is believed to pave the way to a prosperous 
life in this world and uninterrupted bliss in the next. These refer to 
their food, sleep and sacrifice, They must not drink pure milk and 
they should abstain, if possible, from butter as it may better be burnt 
in the temple of the gods. It is on ceremonial occasions and festivals 
that they may eat butter after it has been dedicated to the gods. 
They should offer the best sheep or goat to their gods as sacrifices and 
they should not sleep on beds with four legs, the usual practice in 
Jaunsar-Bawar is to sleep on the wooden floor. 

The principal occupations of the Khasas are safeguarded against 
interference by the forces of evil which people their imagination by 
a system of protective and productive magic. It is true that the 
efficacy of these magical rites is being minimized by the people, but 
this has not caused any serious challenge to the traditional code of 
conduct so far as it relates to the observance of rites of protective 
magic. Magic embraces practically all spheres of Khasa activity. 
When they build a new house, they have to protect it from destructioi} 



THE KHASAS 155 

by fire, or from calamities that may fall on the inmates, and the usual 
practice is to sacrifice a goat or sheep to the evil spirits, the blood 
being sprinkled round the house. When the bridegroom comes 
home with the bride, before the couple is allowed to enter the house 
some relative, usually the maternal uncle, throws down from the roof 
of the house a live sheep in front of the couple below. The relatives 
and friends of the couple tear pieces of flesh and bone from the animal 
and there is a scramble among them for the heart and liver which, 
when eaten raw, ensures good luck to the eater. The bride and the 
bridegroom are then allowed to get inside. 

When the harvests are brought home or the first sowing takes 
place, the evil spirits are propitiated by individual families while a 
common sacrifice is also made by the village. Human sacrifice is non- 
existent, but the efficacy of it in theory is not denied by the Khasas. 
The custom of rope dancing which formed an important annual 
festival in these parts has become obsolete as it has been forbidden by 
the administration on account of the risk to life involved in the process, 
but in times of agricultural calamities occasioned by the vagaries of 
rainfall or by insect pests and diseases to crops and cattle, they remem- 
ber the olden days when the- annual bedwart (rope dancing) provided 
the necessary safeguards against such supernatural visitations. 
Even today in Rawain, a neighbouring state, bedwart is allowed to be 
practised under police surveillance as the people have made repeated 
representations to the state authorities not to interfere with the age-old 
magico-religious practice. The failure of rains and harvest are traced 
to the non-observance o* such practices and the state had to yield to 
their persistent demands. 

The bedwart as was practised in earlier days was a cruel custom 
as it subjected the beda or dancer to physical violence. Originally a 
stout and long piece of rope was tied to two peaks of unequal height 
and the rope was greased for days and weeks to allow the beda to slide 
smoothly from the higher to the lower end of the rope. The beda 
after a ceremonial bath, was seated at the highest end of the rope and 
was given a push and the greasy rope did the rest. The beda glided 
down the rope at a terrific speed, clinging to it somehow, and the 
crowd which gathered to watch the ceremony broke into loud cheers 



156 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

as the beda approached the end of the rope. If the beda accidentally 
misses his hold, it is fatal for him for he would certainly dash against 
the ravines hundreds of feet below and be shattered into fragments. 
If he succeeds as he usually does because it is undertaken after 
long preparation and practice, he loosens his hold of the rope imme- 
diately before he reaches the other end and drops down into the 
arms of a receptive crowd who carry him head high and move with 
him through the crowd. The piece of cloth or rag he puts on is torn 
to shreds by the crowd and each man keeps a thread or two as 
protection against natural calamities and as a sign of good luck and 
prosperity. In the scuffle that ensures to secure this luck,, the beda 
loses not only his cloth but even tufts of hair from his head and may 
even receive serious injuries. 

Other magico-religious rites include naked dances before sowing, 
during the growth of the crops and after harvests. Playing with red 
hot iron rods, swallowing burning charcoal and such other ordeals 
are some of the other precautions designed to safeguard their 
material prosperity and domestic bliss. 

The festivals of the Khasas indicate a blending of Hindu and 
tribal rights and rituals; they often represent merely social activities, 
especially arranged to break the monotony of an inactive life in winter 
months. Festivals are held in honour of their ancestors, the Pandavas 
of Mahabharat fame, as for example when they celebrate pando-ku- 
sradh. They offer pindas (oblations) at a fixed place known to 
the villagers as pandavu-ki-chori. The village priest officiates in the 
puja and the village drummer and his wife play the music and dance 
the dance of the gods, respectively, and the villagers assemble on the 
spot to share the thrills of the function by witnessing the possession 
by the Pandavas or their spirits of persons suffering from abnormal 
or hyper-normal mental conditions. The music of the beda acts on 
the nerves of these people who start responding to it by shaking their 
limbs, particularly the head, and the speed of the movements increases 
with the speed of the drum beats, so that they soon lose control of their 
movements, foam at the mouth and start irrelevant talks. 

The villagers detect in these abnormal manifestations a change 
of personality and approach the possessed persons with reverence 



THfcKHASAS 157 

to renew their faith in age-long rites and rituals and learn from them 
the course of their lives, for they are believed to be blessed with second 
sight. They are often supposed to be sheltering spirits of the Pandavas, 
and as the latter are recognised as gods of the Khasas, words that fall 
from the lips of the possessed persons are taken to represent the 
voice of the gods and often they order their lives in accordance with 
the promptings of the spirits. A kind of superhuman strength is 
gained by these possessed persons; they do things which an ordinary 
man would not dare do, and in various other ways their activities 
strike terror into the hearts of the people as well as cause surprise and 
evoke admiration. Many of these possessed persons strip themselves 
naked before the crowd, make scars on their body by striking them- 
selves with red hot iron rods, sometimes even touching them with 
their bare tongues. 

Other demonstrations of their superhuman strength and capacity 
include mutilation of the face by sharp knives, consumption of huge 
quantity of wine and liquor, and gluttony. As long as their spirits are 
up they indulge in these orgies though at great personal risk to them- 
selves, and when their energy is on the ebb, they gradually fade away 
till they faint and drop down unconscious. Elaborate precautions are 
taken by the crowd to restore the consciousness of the affected persons, 
to dress their wounds and make normal men of them. But these people 
on recovery have all avowed that they feel no sensations when they 
strike red hot iron on their person while possessed. On such occasions 
the villagers, one and all, offer pindas to the Pandavas, and they believe 
that from then on their life in the village and their work in the fields 
would proceed smoothly, and that the gods thus invoked and 
propitiated would bless them with plenty. The evening is spent in 
feasts and general rejoicing and sex taboo is strictly enforced for the 
night^ as its violation is believed to cause sure destruction of the crops 
and calamities to families. 

It is not very usual in the hills to observe sex taboos during the 
festivals, for the latter are noted for wantonness and debauchery, 
but on occasions described above, the gods are believed to be offended 
by sexual excesses and in order that there may not be such possibilites, 
the sex act is tabooed for the night. The sayana of Chajjar explained 



158 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

to me the taboo as'arising from the fact that on account of the invo- 
cations of the spirits, the latter become restless and at the slightest 
disrespect shown to them, they get offended so that people concentrate 
on their propitiation and nothing is allowed to be done which would 
detract them from such attention to the spirits. 

The typical Khasa family, consisting of a group of brothers as 
husbands with one, two or more wives and children, represents a 
social and not a biological group. The father is not the psychological 
father but functional in the sense that children address him by his 
functional name as for example, father-who-looks-after-the-house, 
father-who-tends-the-sheep, father-who-grazes-cattle, and so on. 
The close tie between the child and mother that we get in a stable 
monogamic family cannot develop in a polyandrous society of the 
type we get in Jaunsar-Bawar. The frequency of the practice of chhut 
or divorce makes the wife a loose unit in the family and she changes 
her affiliation pretty freely. The care and maintenance of the children, 
therefore, devolves on the group of fathers, particularly on the head of 
the family, and it is the duty of the latter to see that the children get 
proper attention and necessary instruction in their formative years. 
The mother has to perform her duties and comply with the obligations 
of motherhood so long as she remains a member of the family and 
conforms to the rules of residence customary with patrilocal groups. 
But as she migrates periodically to her parents' village at harvest time 
and during the festivals, the children do not get her company through- . 
out the year. The normal socio-psychological association between 
mother and child cannot develop on account of frequent interruptions 
by these voluntary migrations. The novel situation arising out of 
customary participation of the people in fairs and festivals, the variety 
of interests they stimulate there and the scope they provide for satis- 
fying the genuine curiosities of children lose much of their significance 
in shaping the mother-child relationship. 

The importance of these casual migrations of young married 
women to their parents' village will be realized when it is known that 
in the villages we investigated most of the married women between 
the ages of 15 and 35 were absent and women of the same age group 
belonging to the village but married to other villages replaced them 



THE KHASAS 159 

as domestic help and farm hands during the harvesting season. 
Women of about 35 those whose psycho-sexual life has lost its in- 
tensity of exuberance and those that are sick or diseased do not 
move from the village and they with the girls of the family manage 
the household and care for the children. 

The seasonal interchange 01 women between villages has a 
number of advantages for a polyandrous community. Firstly, it 
allows a release of tension in sexual life,, for with the return of the girl 
to her parents' house and the absence of the wife or wives from the 
village, opportunities for extra-marital relationship increase and in- 
trigues within the village are possible without any disturbance of 
normal wedded life. Secondly, the periodical return of the girls of 
the family reduces the instability of the family relationship in the 
event of wives leaving the family permanently, and ensures a con- 
tinuity of economic existence of the family. Thirdly, the seasonal resi- 
dence of the wife in the husband's house and periodical migration to her 
parents, the knowledge of the two standards of morality enjoyed by 
women in Jaunsai-Bawar, and the possibilities of easy chhut while re- 
ducing the sanctity of marital obligations also temper marital jealousy. 

In a polyandrous society, in order that social life may run 
smoothly, marital jealousy must be absent, and we are told by com- 
petent authorities that it is so in fact. It is true that when several 
brothers share one wife the brothers must not quarrel over her, and 
custom and tradition determine the attitude of the brothers to one 
another and to the wife. The importance of the eldest brother or 
jeth among the Khasas generally and in Jaunsar-Bawar in particular 
has greatly minimized marital jea!6usy as it is not usually possible 
for the other brothers to possess the wife sexually so long as the eldest 
brother resides in the house. In practice, however, the eldest brother 
does not exercise this sexual monopoly and his frequent absence from 
the house provides the necessary transference of sexual rights to the 
next of the brothers. Besides, the disparity in the age of the brothers 
makes it possible for the elder brothers to secure to themselves the right 
of cohabitation till the younger brothers come of age and in 90 cases 
out of 100 a second wife is taken in the interest of the younger 
brothers. 



160 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

Jealousy between brothers for the affection of a common wife 
is not rare and manifests itself in the demand by the husband concerned 
for better attention to his needs and comforts. In such cases, the wife, 
if she is clever, manages her obligation to the satisfaction of the hus- 
bands concerned. If she does not, quarrels do take place and the 
eldest brother may order a dissolution of the marriage. While 
quarrels between brothers are obviated by customary rules of conduct 
as described above, those between co -wives are of frequent occurence. 
Unless the second wife happens to be the sister of the first as is very 
often the case or someone in whose selection the first wife had a voice, 
no second wife can be taken while the first remains in the house. 
She must be divorced before another wife can be brought home. 
Thus the wife's sister is normally preferred to others as a second 
wife. 

When a second wife is had, precautions are taken to see that 
quarrels between co-wives may not occur too often and magical rites 
have been introduced to remove the shadow of misunderstanding. 
When a second wife, other than the sister of the first one, is taken, an 
interesting ceremony is gone through. The second wife is made to sit 
in one corner of the room the first wife sitting opposite her, while an 
elderly woman with a lighted dip in her hand stands by each of them. 
Another woman stands in the centre of the room and joins their hands 
and each gives the other a silver coin. The dip is held in such a way 
that the shadow of the one does not fall on the other. 

Marriage in Jaunsar-Bawar takes place early. Most girls are 
married between the ages of 2 and 10, though this does not mean that 
cohabitation follows earlier than in the plains. From the cases we 
have noticed of girls proceeding to their husband's village for residence 
for the first time, it does not appear that the girls have to do so before 
they are 17 or 18 and this is a fair arrangement as puberty sets in later 
in a cold climate. Occasionally, however, a girl of 8 or 10 may come 
to live with her mother-in-law for a couple of months or so and assist 
her in her domestic obligations, but such residence has not been 
abused by the husband or group of husbands. Besides, in the case 
of a first marriage the bridegroom also is of tender age and the possibi- 
lity of an earlier consummation of marriage is remote. 



THE KHASAS 161 

When a son is to be married, the father approaches the girl's 
parents and asks for the girl. If the father or guardian of the girl is 
satisfied on the suitability of the marriage he may demand the nominal 
bride price which is usually He. 1. Ihepahari Brahmin then decides 
the date of the wedding. On the appointed day 2 to 8 people from 
the bridegroom's village come to the bride's house wheie they receive 
a cordial reception. The party is entertained to a sumptuous feast 
and the villagers arrange a dance in which the party from the bride- 
groom's village take part. Next morning 100 to 200 people proceed 
with the bride to the bridegroom's house singing and dancing all 
the way till they reach the outskirts of the groom's village. All the 
villagers men, women and children assemble there to receive the 
guests and lead them to the bridegroom's house where the guests are 
taken care of. A heavy menu at dinner with a large quantity of 
liquor served before and after the meal,, a gala dance in which people 
from both sides take part, continuous singing by the women, the beating 
of drums, and sometimes a hunting excursion to the forest nearby, 
all go to make the ceremony a memorable event. Poor people cannot 
entertain their guests on such a lavish scale and the people who parti- 
cipate in the function from the village of the bride as well as those 
from their own village provide the necessary assistance for the 
family concerned in the shape of gifts which consist of rice, flour, 
ghee, gur and sheep or goats. 

The poor families, however, cannot afford to invite every villager 
to the feast. So one person from each family is invited to join the 
festivities and to give the ceremony a representative character. Even 
then the whole village acts as host and all the necessary arrangements 
are made by the villagers whether they are invited to the feast 
or not. 

The ceremony of marriage is extremely simple. The pahari 
Brahmin puts a tilafc of pithain or vermillion on the forehead of the 
bride in the bridegroom's house and on the bridegroom's forehead in 
the house of the bride. He also cites some mantrams in the presence of 
the couple while he may, if he is asked, sacrifice a goat in honour of the 
great god Mahasu, to whom he prays for prosperity and happiness 
for the couple. Before the food is sent to tte guests, a plate of it 

21 



162 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

is offered by the priest to the village god. This is obligatory on 
all occasions of feasts and festivals. 

Besides the ceremonial gift of a rupee., the bridegroom's people 
may and very often do pay a small sum to cover the expenses of the 
bride's parents. Where the financial and social status of the parties 
differ, as for example when the bridegroom is not so well-to-do and the 
bride's parents are, or when both the parties are well off, the bride- 
groom has to pay some money as bride price. But only half of this 
amount is payable before marriage and the other half only after the 
woman has proved her fertility. Barrenness is a frequent complaint 
in these parts and a husband who has paid a big sum as jeodhan and 
has spent more on entertaining his friends and relations must be 
given some relief. Should the woman prove barren, the bride's 
parents have to refund the other half if need be. A reasonable period 
after cohabitation starts is allowed to the wife to prove her fertility 
and if she fails to do so she is returned to her parents and chhut or 
divorce is obtained. 

Besides the question of fertility,, there is another practical im- 
plication of this custom,, namely, paying half the bride price and 
retaining the other half to be paid when the girl becomes a mother. 
The girl is married at the age of 3 or 4. When she grows up she becomes 
an economic asset. The father is reluctant to send the daughter 
away to her husband's village. He does not mind her licence in sexual 
matters so long as this is confined within the village. Intrigues with 
persons belonging to the same clan are not encouraged, but there is 
not much restriction as regards those belonging to other clans. 
When the husband finds that she does not want to come to live with 
him, he demands repayment of the bride price he has paid; of course, 
he takes this final step only a^fter he has tried his best to persuade 
the wife's people, for even if he has made a small cash payment he has 
spent a lot in kind and in enteitainment. The girl's father does not 
worry himself much about this demand, for if the girl is handsome 
she is sure to be demanded by some other party which will pay the 
dowry back to the first husband and some thing to him as well. 
Whether he keeps the girl at his house or marries her a second time, 
he is a gainer in either case and these considerations have something 



THE KHASAS 163 

to do with the many cases of chhut and of strained relations between 
different villages. Where the girl is not handsome or does not receive 
proper care and indulgence in the parents' house, the parents do not 
prevent her from going to her husband's house, for in that case they 
do not get willing assistance from her and lose the part of the dowry 
payable by the husband. When there is no difference in status between 
the parties to a marriage., the girl is not withheld from the bride- 
groom's people, for unless she resides at her husband's place she is 
not expected to fulfil the role of mother which alone entitles the 
bride's parents to receive the other half of the bride price. 

As has already been said, girls even after marriage come back 
to the villages of their parents to assist them in field work during the 
harvest season, and the sex licence that obtains in Jaunsar-Bawar 
during the festivals when married girls do not hesitate to misbehave is 
understandable on this account. In the village of her husband, adultery 
is a crime of the gravest magnitude, and a wife found guilty of such 
offence pays the penalty in no uncertain way. If she still remains 
in her husband's house, she is ill-tieated by the family and is denied 
any sympathy by the village. This raises the question of morality 
in Jaunsai-Bawar. A woman has two standards of morality to con- 
form to, one in her parents' house, the other in her husband's. In 
her parents' house she is allowed every kind of liberty and licence 
and nothing is an offence unless specifically prohibited. In case any 
child is born of extra-marital relationship, her husbands have to own 
it and this they do without much heart-searching on account of the 
small number of children among the Khasas. Usually the child is 
fathered on the eldest of the husbands of the woman. 

It was customary in earlier days, and even today it is so in the 
interior, for girls (conforming to the social etiquette of the family) to 
offer themselves as bedmates to guests of the family who may have no 
scruples in this matter. The rules of hospitality allow that grown- 
up daughters of the family, married or unmarried, should cater to the 
comforts of visitors in every way. But a married girl in her husband's 
house, called dhyanti, must observe strictly the rules of morality, must 
behave properly, must be faithful and loyal to the group of husbands 
and strict vigilance is kept on her movements by the family group 



164 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

as well as the village. Everything she does is considered an offence 
unless specifically permitted. But a wife in one village is a daughter 
or ranti in another, and custom allows the wife to go to her paients 5 
village where she may take advantage of this double standard of 
morality. 

The usual explanation offered by the Khasas is found in popular 
sayings and proverbs which compare a girl after marriage to the carcase 
of an animal, so that the parents can have no interest in her after her 
marriage. She lives, they say, for the family of her husbands where 
her economic contribution is indispensable and thus her morals are 
no concern of her parents. How far this attitude is born of an original 
disgust at the transference of allegiance of the girls of a matriarchal 
society to a patriarchal one is an interesting theme for discussion. 
I shall deal with this aspect later on. 

Girls in Jaunsar-Bawar, as I have already pointed above, are 
married very early. But if the family suffers from some social 
stigma or is known to have some hereditary disease, if the gods are 
known to have been displeased with the family or if the girls of the 
family are known to have broken faith by not going to live with their 
husband or husbands, it may happen that suitable proposals for 
marriage will not be forthcoming and the parents or brothers of the 
girl have to wait indefinitely for her marriage, A few such cases 
came to our knowledge during our investigations. 

Some examples of polyandry in practice will be of interest in 
this connection. Hariram, sadar sayana of village Jadi, has four 
brothers, the youngest of whom, Nain Singh, is about 35 years of age. 
He with his brothers owns 9 acres 3 rods and 5 poles of land, 14 
heads of cattle and 88 sheep and pays Rs. 8 as malgoozari. He is, 
therefore, quite a man of substance and the richest farmer in the 
village. Hariram married Gonga and paid Rs. 60 as bride price. She 
proved barren and after 4 years, she was divorced and Hariram got 
back Rs. 20 from her next husband. He then married Jimuti, a 
divorced woman for whom he had to pay Rs. 20 as bride price. 
Jimuti was found to be suffering from venereal disease and was divorced 
without any demand of part of the dowry. He then married Ashadi 
and paid Rs. 50. She too was a divorced woman but after a couple 



tHE KKtASAS OF JAUNSAR-fcAWAR 165 

of years she died without any issue. The fourth marriage was with 
Pirudi for whom he paid only Rs. 12. Pirudi is living with the family 
and has three children. Bipu is his fifth wife and has one son. Last 
yearRariiam married Pusuli for whom he had to pay Rs. 120 as 
dowry. She was divorced thrice before she was married by Hariram 
and has not any issue yet. Thus Hariram has married six wives 
one aftei another and between 4 brothers they have foui sons. 

INarain, son of Hariram (for he is the eldest of the sons and 
thus was fathered upon Hariram),, lives with his brothers and has 
married 3 wives. For the first wife Nagu he paid Rs. 12, but Nagu 
died without issue. His second wife was Baradai who also was paid 
Rs. 12 as bride price. She gave birth to two daughters but was later 
divorced. The third wife, Chakeri, was paid a dowry of Rs. 120 as 
she was married after her second divorce. She has two sons living. 
Narain's eldest daughter Pusu was first married to Jowar Singh 
who paid Re. 1 as bride price., but Pusu was divorced and the 
second husband had to pay Rs. 240 to Jowar Singh as com- 
pensation. 

Marian Singh has two brothers,, Narain and Ajmeru. He arid 
his brothers possess 4 acres 1 rod and 30 poles of land, 8 cows and 
44 sheep and pays a malgoozari of Rs. 5-14. Madan paid Rs. 2 as 
bride price and married Bardai and has 4 children by her. For the 
next wife he paid Rs. 12, but after 2 years he divorced hei and realised 
Rs. 60 from the husband she married later. The third wife, Asuji 
had to be paid Rs. 12, but she too was divorced after a year and 
fetched Rs. 100. The fourth wife of Madan, Jamni, for whom he paid 
Rs. 12 has no issue yet. Thus in this family 3 brothers have married 
4 wives and have 4 children between them. 

Amar Singh with his 4 brothers has married three wives. For 
the first wife, he paid Rs. 50 as she was a divorced woman. After a 
year she was again divorced by Amar Singh and the latter received 
back only Rs. 8. Next he married Jhani and paid Rs. 10 as dowry. She 
also was divorced after a couple of years and he realized Rs. 8 from her 
next husband. He then married Hutu who is living with the brothers 
and for whom he paid Rs. 50. They have a son by tne present wife. 
Amar Singh with his brothers owns 2 acres 1 rod and 26 poles of land, 



166 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

10 heads of cattle and 36 sheep and pays a fairly high malgoozari too. 
Thus in this family 3 brothers have one son. 

Instance like these can be multiplied to show the rate of bride 
price, the frequency of reel which combines in one transaction divorce 
as well as second marriage., arid the number of wives and children per 
family. It appears from our investigation in Jaunsar-Bawar that 
usually the number of marriages is no indication of the plurality of 
wives for seldom has a family more than two wives simultaneously 
living together with thegroup of brothers as husbands. The marriages 
are usually in succession after the death of a wife or after a chhut. 
A chhut is usually followed by another marriage. Further,, the number 
of children in a polyandrous society is very low, for 4 to 5 brothers 
between them possess 3 to 4 children and sometimes less, Another 
fact which is extremely significant is the number of barren women. 
A husband waits 2 to 3 years to see if the wife provides any issue. If 
she fails, she feels that she is not much wanted in the family and thus 
she seeks a new home. If she is not wanted in the house, if she is lazy 
or suffers from some sexual disease which is fairly common, or if she 
is guilty of some grave misdemeanour, such as her unwillingness to 
cohabit with the eldest husband so long as he remains in the house, 
she is divorced and the next husband of tjhe woman has not to pay any 
big sum as dowry for her. But if she wants to leave her husband 
herself and if she does not suffer from any disease or has already proved 
her fertility, the husband usually demands an exorbitant price from 
her fiance and this amount must be paid by the latter if he wishes to 
marry her. In such a case the larger the number of chhuts a woman 
goes through, the higher the bride price she fetches, for the bride 
price must provide for compensation to all the previous husbands 
and their families. 

It is easy to marry a girl of 10 to 12 years and one need pay 
only a nominal bride price. But a woman who has been divorced 
thrice or four times fetches a handsome dowry. A woman of 45 
in Bangar village with 4 chhuts to her credit was married by her fifth 
husband on payment of Rs. 285 which may sound ridiculous when a 
girl of 15 or 20 can be married on payment of Rs. 20 to Rs. 30 only. 
Investigations showed that this woman had given one or two issues to 



THE KHASAS 167 

every family she was affiliated to by marriage and as children are very 
much desired by the people a woman who has proved her fertility is 
at a premium. Considering the number of barren women, a woman 
who gives evidence of her fertility in one family is desired by others so 
that she chooses to change her husbands whenever opportunities present 
themselves. Besides, with four to five husbands to cater to, her affec- 
tions may not be fixed on any, thus her change of family does not 
produce any great psychological reaction which one would normally 
expect in a monogamous family. The licence permitted to the girls 
while they live with their parents, the indulgence they receive from 
the society, the annual sojourn of married girls to their parents' village 
during harvesting season and also during festivals uphold this laxity 
in morals. 

In one of our village surveys in Nada, we were met with many 
requests for medicine to cure barrenness and we made a house-to- 
house inquiry to determine the extent of this disability. The figures 
we collected were indeed staggering and I should think that along with 
any scheme of economic uplift, a health survey should be immediately 
undertaken to examine the causes of sterility in the women of the 
area. Some primitive tribes in India allow premarital licence and 
women are known to take recourse to indigenous medicines to avoid 
the consequences of irregular unions and the effects of such nostrums 
have been manifest in the increased incidence of sterility among 
them. How far such practices are responsible for barrenness among 
the hill people affords a subject for inquiry. Besides, in the hills, 
particularly those in the neighbourhood of cantonments, incidence 
of sexual disease is greater than anywhere in the plains and a medical 
inquiry in the villages of this region will be of great help in determi- 
ning the extent of sexual disease. 

We have said that polyandry is the common form of marriage 
among the people of the Himalayan region. It is a fact that all the 
cultural groups in this region practise it. But it is also a fact that other 
forms of marriage, too, are practised along with polyandry. In one 
house there may be three brothers with one wife. In the next house 
there may be an only son with three wives to himself; in the next 
three brothers with four wives so that monogamy, polygyny, and 



168 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

polyandry and even 'group' marriage are all practised side by 
side. 

Economic considerations have been suggested as the cause of 
polyandrous marriage. Thus whether one man should have one 
wife or a group of brothers one wife between them is said to be a 
matter of means and land. Economic conditions engender social 
habits no doubt, and polyandry may be due to the difficulties of 
setting up independent establishments particularly in the region 
under investigation. The Garhwalis do not observe polyandry but 
the Jaunsaris do. Once I had a talk with a number of Jaunsaris 
on this subject. I wanted to know why they still practised polyandry 
while their next door neighbour the Garhwalis did not. The answer 
was extremely significant. I was told that they did not envy the 
Garhwalis. "They left their homes due to the disintegration of joint 
families. At first,, land in Garhwal was measured by acres., then by 
rods., then by poles, then by yards and feet till they all left their 
village and are today distributed all over the country as domestic 
servants." The Jaunsaris love their home and do not want to repeat 
the experience of their neighbours. 

That economic conditions shape the forms of marital relation- 
ship we may not doubt, but should a society become polyandrous if 
polyandry is not the customary form of marriage among the people? 
The custom of hypergamy which makes it obligatory for a family to 
confine the marriage of girls within certain limits is widespread in 
India and elsewhere where two or more races of unequal racial or 
cultural status have mixed together. It leads to the custom of 
marrying up as opposed to hypogamy or marrying below. It forbids 
a woman of a particular group to marry a man of a group lower than 
her own in social standing and compels her to marry in it or above it, 
while a man can marry in the group or below it. If for example 
we take a society with three social classes, A, B and C, all hypergamous, 
we shall find that a man belonging to A can marry in A,B and C. 
Men of the B class can marry in B as well as C. Men of the G class 
must confine their marriages to their own class. Girls belonging 
to B can marry in B as well as in A, while girls of A must marry with 
A. If the sexes are numerically equal in all the three classes, as 



THE KHASA3 169 

they usually are, the girls belonging to A will have difficulty in getting 
married while boys in C will have a restricted choice and, therefore, 
will find difficulty in securing wives. In the A group polygyny may 
develop due to excess of females; in the C group polyandry is a possible 
consequence due to scarcity of women. But we find that in practice 
such a situation has not developed. Instead, in the A class the bride- 
grooms are at a premium and in the C class brides are at a premium. 
While in the A class bridegrooms are bought, in the C class purchase 
of brides is the rule. In one case excess of females may be done away 
with by female infanticide, in the other, late marriage, widow re- 
marriage and celebacy help to stabilise social life. Thus polyandry 
may not be a necessary consequence of disparity in the distribution of 
the sexes. 

All of us know how difficult it is for the lower classes and pri- 
mitive tribes to secure wives as it involves heavy financial commit- 
ment for the willing bridegroom, but such castes and tribes have not 
taken to polyandry. In some tribes if the bride price is not secured, 
it is customary for the bridegroom to serve the family of the bride 
for a stipulated period so that he may liquidate the bride price by 
service and become eligible for marriage. Marriage by capture, 
concubinage, levirate and homosexual practices may be found along 
with polyandry so that economic conditions or the custom of hyper- 
gamy cannot alone explain the incidence of polyandry as we find 
in the Himalayan region. 

Attempts have also been made to correlate polyandry to a 
disturbed balance of the sexes. Westermarck could not find any 
absolute correlation between them. In the cis-Himalayan region 
as well as in those areas where polyandry is practised there is an 
excess of males over females, though from theamazonian look of many 
villages both in the trans-Himalayan and cis-Himalayan regions 
such disparity cannot be safely predicted. Briffault quotes Sir A 
Cunningham who observed that in Ladhak females outnumber the 
males, and A. H. Diack who wrote in The Gazetteer of the Kangra 
District that in Lahul where polyandry is extensively practised, "both 
the census of 1881 and that of 1891 show that the women outnumber 
the men in the large proportion of 108 to 100." The fact that hill 

n 



170 



THE FORTUNES OP PRIMITIVE TRIBES 



girls are imported to the plains for marriage or for prostitution does 
not mean that there is an excess of females there. At any time during 
busy agricultural season or after it, men move out of their villages, 
and a large proportion of women in the village may suggest disparity 
which may not be real. But as census figures are our only guide in 
the matter, the hill demography as evidenced from such records does 
not bear out such statement. 

Disparity in Sex Distribution in Jaunsar-Bawar from 
1881-1931. 





M 


F 


TOTAL 


1881 


25,400 


19,717 


45,117 


1891 


28,435 


22,262 


50,697 


1901 


28,349 


22,752 


51,101 


1911 


30,518 


24,294 


54,812 


1921 


31,567 


24,056 


55,623 


1931 


31,922 


24,853 


56,775 



India is a land of males, for according to the latest available 
figures (1941) regarding the distribution of population by sex, India has 
approximately 201 million males compared with 188 million females. 
In many European countries the women are in a majority. According 
to the census of 1901, there were 102,826 males and 75,369 females 
in the Dehra Dun district and there were 39,611 married women and 
56,254 married men during the same period. Figures from other 
parts of this cultural region too will show a sex disparity. This un- 
equal proportion of the sexes may have some effect on the form of 
marital relationship in these parts, but then there is an obvious difficul- 
ty in accepting this position. An intensive survey of four villages 



THfc fcHASAS 



171 



in Jaunsar-Bawar undertaken by me has given the following 
data: 



Village. 


No. of 
families. 


No. of 
male 
children. 


No. of 
female 
children. 


Total 
No. of 
children. 


No. 1 . . 


21 


37 


31 


68 


No. 2 . . 


26 


48 


21 


69 


No. 3 .. 


15 


24 


13 


37 


No. 4 .. 


17 


34 


30 


64 


Total 


79 


143 


95 


238 



Thus in 79 families investigated there were 143 male and 95 
female children, the proportion being 3:2 ; in another group of 
villages investigated by my student,, Mr. H. Meithal, there were 139 
male and 83 famale children, the ratio of male to female children 
approximately being 7.4. 

We have no evidence to prove that female infanticide was 
freely practised or is practised now in these parts. The demand for 
labour is so high that it is not possible to believe that female children 
were put to death. Today in Jaunsar-Bawar we find that many 
girls after marriage do not proceed to their husband's village because 
their labour is greatly needed in the household of their parents. How 
far polyandry is responsible for the excess of male children is a profit- 
able inquiry no doubt, but even if we admit the physiological law 
which produces an excess of female offsprings in polygamous animals 
the reverse process may not be true. Granting it to be true in animals, 
it does not follow that such result is a necessary consequence of polyan- 
drous matings in human beings, for man differs from animals in many 
particulars. How far dietary conditions are responsible for diffe- 
rence in fecundity and fertility and in the determination of sex of 
children born is a problem which has received little attention. How 
far viability of sperm in polyandrous unions affects reproduction has 
not been found. From local knowledge as well as from the testimony of 



172 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE BRIBES 

the people themselves it appears that the extent of sexual diseases must 
have some selective effects on reproduction so that female children are 
more vulnerable than male, and the incidence of male births is 
necessarily high in this area. In any case it is legitimate to suggest 
that polyandry may not be the consequence of a disturbed balance 
of the sexes as it may itself produce a disparity in sex proportion as 
we have already indicated. 

Even if biological and economic factors do not explain the 
origin of the institution of polyandry _, they certainly have maintained 
the institution. The origin of an institution may be due to a variety 
of causes, just as in the evolution of the races we do not think mono- 
genesis can explain the diversity of types and races. Monogenic theory 
fails to explain the origin of complex cultural institutions. The 
status of the first born in the family is an important factor in the life 
of most of the people living in the Himalayan region. The system 
of patriarchal family is consecrated by religion in Tibet and also in 
cis-Himalayan tracts. The property of the father remains the ex- 
clusive property of the first born; he is,, however, under the obligation 
of lodging, clothing and feeding his brothers. When the eldest son 
of a man marries, the father abdicates his trust and makes it over to 
the eldest son. Just as the property of the family is owned by the 
first born but is enjoyed by the other brothers and dependants, the 
various partners in the joint establishment have a share in the wife of 
the eldest brother. Such is the principle of Tibetan jurisprudence 
that even a father or uncle may live with his son's or nephew's wife 
and share marital rights over her. The marriage of a younger brother 
with another woman is considered bigamy as it is incompatible 
with the principles of Tibetan marriage. I have already referred 
to the status of the first born in Jaunsar-Bawar and similar evidence 
has been provided by others who have written on the people living 
in other parts of the Himalayan region. 

Marriage has always been a group contract. Where the sanctity 
of a marriage is not established it is taken as a means of uniting two 
families or even two clans. If marriage is a group contract, as it 
essentially is, the marriage of a woman with a group of brothers is not 
a unique phenomenon. That the various branches of the Aryan race 



THE KHASAS 173 

had practised some such form of marriage can now be readily under- 
stood. Briffault in his Mothers has provided evidence regarding the 
wide distribution of polyandry among pre-literate and literate people 
in c pre-controP and 'control' days, that is, in both savage and civilized 
societies. But polyandry has existed side by side with other forms of 
marriage and thus the existence of polyandry in the society does not 
represent a survival as the historical anthropologists suggested, or even 
as a stage in the evolution of marriage. 

The marital life of Jaunsar-Bawar, as also of the entire Himalayan 
region, is characterized by the inordinate freedom of women. It 
may be that the economic importance of women has determined the 
attitude of the people to the marital code. Yet the laxity of morals, 
the double stemdard of morality recognized by the community, and 
the freedom with which marriage ties are entered into and annulled, 
are difficult to explain from a merely economic standpoint. The 
frequency of divorce and dissolution of marriage commonly known as 
reel has introduced problems extremely tragic in themselves, and an 
understanding of the implications of the marital life in these parts is 
necessary before any steps may be taken to remedy the situation. 
I have already discussed the various possible causes of polyandry 
in this cultural region and it has been found how difficult it is to pin 
oneself down to any of the interpretations given above. It appears, 
however, that the entire Himalayan region, particularly the cis- 
Himalayan tract, has its own story to tell about the characteristic 
social life one meets there. For such problems as are found there may 
be due to contacts between two distinct matrices that still survive 
in various traits otherwise inexplicable. 

Without accepting the theory of unilinear progress of human 
society it may be said that many of the aboriginal tribes, austroloid 
or pre-Dravidian, have passed through a matriarchal stage 
of culture survivals of which are found today in couvade, laxity 
of morals among women and an economic independence difficult to 
interpret otherwise. The settlement of a purely patriarchal people 
like the Indo-Aryans, among a predominantly matriarchal people 
like the Doms, have certainly led to cultural fusion and acculturation. 
It is on this assumption that we can explain some of the important 



174 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

traits-complex in the cis-Himalayan region, as for example, the double 
standard of morality practised by women. Matriarchal social life is 
incompatible with rigid rules and taboos fettering the free movement 
of the women, but patriarchal society cannot function unless the 
woman is loyal to the family of the husband and thus a conflict arises 
between duties and rights resulting in a compromise in behaviour 
patterns as we meet in Jaunsar-Bawar and other parts of the Himalayan 
region. 

The latitude granted to a woman in her parents' house is 
reminiscent of the^ matriarchal life, while the circumscribed freedom 
of the wife in her husband's village indicates the ascendancy of the 
patriarchal code over the matriarchal. Even today a woman returns 
periodically to her parents' village and passes her time in the company 
of her friends and relations on her parents' side. This custom pro- 
duces an interesting grouping of the village units and is responsible for 
much of the laxity in morals and peculiar behaviour patterns which 
characterize the hill community. 

The exogamous rule does not allow girls of the same village to 
marry within the village, though extra-marital sex-relationships are 
possible and are not noted as serious offence by the local group. The 
girls of a family or village who may belong to two to three generations 
(as for example, grandfather's sisters, father's sisters and own sisters) 
are all known by the classificatory term dhyanli and include the pro- 
hibited degrees of relationship. The diagramatic arrangement given 
below will illustrate the nature of social stratification and grouping 
commonly met with in Jaunsar-Bawar, As the village is usually 
inhabited by members of the same got or clan, marriage must be 
arranged outside the village. But even if the village contained more 
than one clan, marriage within the village group may not be 
desired on account of the latitude in sex life obtained in the 
village. 



A 2 A 3 A 4 . . 

b 2 b s b 4 . . 

/\2 ^3 A- 4 . 

a a a 8 a 4 . , 


::M 
::}{ 


Bj B 2 6364 . . 

a l a 2 a 3 a 4 

B B 2 B 3 B 4 . . 

b l b 2 b 3 b 4 


::} 
::} 



THE KHASAS 175 

If we take two villages between which marriages are usually 

arranged and if we denote the males of one village as A x A 2 A 8 

and the females as a x , a 2 , a 3 . . and the corresponding units in the 

other village as B x B 2 B 3 , and b l5 b 2 , b 3 X would give the 

normal arrangement of units for an exogamous village, but the second 
situation, viz., Y, arises on account of the periodical migration of 
dhyantis from their husband's village to that of their parents. This 
periodical exodus of women in these parts is a compromise trait that 
owes its inception to the impact of cultures and not to the economic 
necessity of assisting parents as would be superficially evident. 

There are other traits which point to a fusion of cultures already 
indicated. For example, when a matriarchal society comes in contact 
with a patriarchal one and a miscegenation takes place between the 
people of these diverse cultures,, property consideration makes it 
necessary for the children to be affiliated to the parent who owns the 
property. Thus metronymic designation is found with matrilocal 
residence and matrilineal inheritance, as otherwise the children would 
not be cared for by the patriarchal group to which the father may 
belong. So the children of a woman who leaves her matriarchal 
moorings and comes to live with a man of the patriarchal society must 
receive patronymic designation or in default some arrangement 
must be made by the community to allow them to inherit some part 
of the property of their father or mother. But a compromise trait 
may develop, as it has developed in Jaunsar-Bawar and neighbour- 
ing hill states, which makes it possible for a Bhat (or Brahmin) or a 
Rajput, for example, to remain a Bhat or a Rajput even when he marries 
a Kanet girl. Their children, however, are called Sarteras, though 
it is possible for the latter to regain the status of the Bhat or Rajput 
after two to three generations. A Bhat or a Rajput is not allowed 
to marry a Koli girl or any girl belonging to the artisan castes who are 
recruited from the Dom element. Should a Bhat or a Rajput girl 
marry a Kolta or Dom, the children must be affiliated to the caste 
and receive patronymic designation. Although sex relations are 
allowed yet strict rules are in force prohibiting any social intercourse. 
A Brahmin or a Rajput may even be allowed to keep a Kolta woman 
as his mistress, but he should not be seen smoking or drinking with 



176 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

her. When a Bhat girl marries a Kanet in the Sirmoor state, she 
becomes a Kanet; but if a Kanet girl marries a Bhat she may remain 
a Kanet or become a Bhat. 

In the matter of inheritance also we find that the hill code differs 
materially from that of the orthodox Hindu as it allows a woman to 
inherit her father's property in the absence of any male issue by the 
same father. So long she remains unmarried or even after marriage 
should she reside with her husband in her father's village, she can 
own and use the property in any way she likes. If she leaves her house 
and proceeds to live with her husbands,, she forfeits her claims to the 
property which passes on to the collaterals. A widow in Kulu and other 
areas can inherit the property of her deceased husband,, and even 
keep a partner to live with her in her husband's house though she 
cannot formally marry any one and also retain her life interest in the 
property at the same time. Not only in the economic sphere but in 
the matter of sex the woman is given an inordinate amount of latitude 
incompatible with the patriarchal code. In Sirmoor and other 
Punjab hill states where polyandry is the prevailing form of marital 
relationship,, the joint wife sleeps with all the brothers in the same com- 
mon house or dormitory and complete freedom is allowed to the wife 
to choose her mate for the night. She naturally makes her choice 
earlier in the day in consultation with her husbands,, but she does not 
usually bestow her favour in such a way as to arouse suspicion about 
her intimacy with any particular husband. The joint wife by tradi- 
tion and upbringing knows her responsibility and meets the wishes 
of her spouses as best as she can. 

Inquiries on this subject have elicited frank answers from the 
wives and it may be mentioned as a general rule that a wife may 
sleep with a particular husband every night but must also meet the 
demands of the other husbands by turns. A number of girls admitted 
that they were fond of one of the husbands but they did not object 
to having sex relations with the other husbands if and when they 
wanted them. When asked why they did not live with the husband 
they were fond of instead of living as the spouse of the other husbands 
as well, they did not think it was necessary as the other husbands did 
not grudge her freedom in this respect. When economic conditions 



THE KHASAS 177 

improve and the head of the family can spend some money over 
the purchase of another wife she does not object to a second wife and 
some wives have confessed to us that for years they have been living 
under monandrous conditions. 

The importance of the maternal uncle in a patriarchal society 
where cross-cousin marriage is not popular furnishes another argument 
for a matriarchal matrix in these parts. The mother's brother has 
an important role to play in the marriage of his nephew or niece. 
It is he who finds mates for his sister's children. He arranges the 
ceremony, manages the function and receives presents from friends 
and relations. As child marriage is very popular in the hills, the child 
bride is carried on his shoulder by the maternal uncle and when the 
couple return to the house, it is usually the maternal uncle who super- 
vises the propitiation of spirits and the worship of benevolent gods 
and goddesses. 

Thus we find that the superimposition of a patriarchal culture 
on the matriarchal matrix has been responsible for many of the traits 
characteristic of this cultural region. The feudal system which still 
survives in this part largely accounts for an elaborate territorial 
organisation based on a confederacy of thokdars or sayanas, and also 
the consequent desire to concentrate power in the senior male mem- 
ber of the family. These have given rise to a rigid code of joint 
living and co-partnership and may have sanctioned the prevailing 
type of marital life in these parts. 

The kinship terms of the Khasas are more or less descriptive and 
do not differ much from those in use among the neighbouring Hindu 
castes. The father is called bao or baba, mother is aman or man, 
father's mother is nani, father's father is nana, mother's father is dada, 
mother's mother is dadee. In other parts the father's father is dada, 
but the Khasas use this term for mother's father. Mother's sister's 
husband is mausa and she is mausi, though a man is eligible to marry 
his mausi. The word mama refers to maternal uncle as well as the 
husband's father, showing perhaps the effect of cross-cousin marriage. 
The maternal aunt is mami, which is also the term used to denote 
husband's mother. The father's sister is phoophee, her husband is 
phoopha. Although polyandry should develop some classificatory 

23 



1 78 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

terminology, for example, father should mean all the brothers who are 
joint husbands of the mother, they use kakafor father's younger brother 
and kaki for his wife. It was found on inquiry that the brothers who 
marry one wife between them are addressed as baba by the children, 
but a conventional code exists which qualifies the term by prefixing 
the occupation habitually performed by the particular* father, as 
already mentioned. The father who looks after the sheep is called 
bhedi-baba, and so on. Brother's wife is bhabhi y his son is bhatija. 
Daughter is betee, son beta, son's son pota, his daughter potee, daughter's 
son is dohta, her daughter dohtee. Although husband's father and 
husband's mother have the same kinship term as that of the maternal 
uncle and his wife, the wife's mother is sasao and her father is sauhra. 
This may be due to the fact that it is not obligatory for a man to marry 
his maternal uncle's daughter, as he may marry any girl of his choice, 
the distinction is necessary and recognised. The daughter's husband 
is jawanee. 

In our description of the physical features of the Khasas we had 
emphasised the fact that the hill people do not represent an undiluted 
stock and the Doms have received Khasa infiltration. The physical 
features of the artisan castes, such as theBajgirs, the Koltas, the Oadhs 
and others, provide ample proof of this fact. Bat the hypergamous 
practice of the Khasas have prevented the Khasa girls from marrying 
the Doms while the Dom girls married to Khasas did not receive 
Khasa affiliation. Nor did the Khasa girls marrying Doms or members 
of the artisan castes retain their castes. So that the intermixture 
of the two people on the one hand prevented much dilution of the 
Khasa blood and on the other hand contributed towards a great ad- 
mixture among the Doms. It is not improbable, however, that 
polyandry would be hailed as a welcome means of keeping the Khasa 
blood free from wholesale contamination though Khasa infusion must 
have contributed to a large scale admixture among the inferior 
groups. The peculiar economic conditions of the hills and the 
biological factor of sex disparity where it exists have no doubt largely 
determined the form and functions of the traits-complex, but had it 
not been for the matriarchal matrix the polyandry of the cis- 
Himalayan region would not have assumed the importance it possesses. 



THE KHASAS 179 

A reference to the export of women from the hills to the plains 
particularly from the Simla states which of late has assumed serious 
proportions will not be out of place here. Selling beautiful brides 
at fairly high price in markets, which has occasionally been referred 
to by earlier observers (Thornton's Gazetteer of India 1884 Vol. II, 
Jubbal State) continues but a regular traffic in women exists in these 
parts. In a letter to the Superintendent,, Simla Hill states, and the 
D.C., Simla district, Thakur Surat Singh, June 12, 1924, referred to 
the practice in vogue in this area. He pointed out how rich and 
unscrupulous people from the plains and elsewhere find these tracts a 
specially fertile field for enticing girls into wrong paths and having 
first made them the victims of their own lust later treat them even 
worse than female slaves. Some traffickers in these girls pass them 
on like current coin from one hand to another and often through 
several hands at one and the same time. "Even married women are 
tempted to leave their husbands and family and as the society usually 
insists on compensation to the aggrieved husband or his group, money 
is secured from the new lover to effect a dissolution of marriage." 

In one case which came to our notice in the vicinity of Chakrata, 
a baniya advanced some money to a Kolta for marrying a handsome 
girl with whom the latter was familiar but whom he could not marry 
for want of the requisite bride price. The Kolta was paid a couple of 
hundreds for his marriage on the understanding that he would transfer 
his bride to the baniya for further consideration. When the money 
was paid, the baniya was asked by the Kolta to wait at a particular 
place to receive the woman, his new bride. At midnight the baniya 
was surprised by a sudden assault from behind by the Kolta who 
stabbed him to death and thus freed himself from the baniya's debt 
and saved his sweetheart. The case against the Kolta could not be 
substantiated as public opinion was overwhelmingly in his favour. 
A crop of similar cases has improved the situation in the Chakrata 
tehsil, though conditions remain the same in many of the Simla 
states. The frequent divorce that obtain in these parts, the profit 
derived by various states from a tax on reet which indirectly encourages 
divorce and official silence against unscrupulous persons, have helped 
to increase immorality and vice and domestic sanctity has no appeal 



180 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

to the people today. How profitable the tax on reel is to the 
states will be evident from the fact that in one state, this tax 
fetched Rs. 3,000 in 1899, about Rs. 40,000 in 1926 and I under- 
stand that the income from this source has further increased since 
then. 

Adoption is valid if the child adopted belongs to the caste of the 
person adopting it. Although there is some social pressure towards 
adoption of children from one's own family or from the collateral 
group, in practice little regard is shown to its requirement and no 
definite rule exists binding the family desiring adoption. But definite 
social laws exist to validate adoption. When a man adopts a child, he 
has to give notice to his kinsmen who expect to be treated to a feast 
and this public feast is needed to legalise the adoption. A propertied 
man does not remain content with this procedure; he also registers the 
fact in the tehsil office or with the patwari of the area. Adoption 
may not be ceremonially made and may not be declared before the 
tribal or village gathering. In some cases, boys are reared in the 
family who represent the latter to the village in farming, in fairs and 
social gatherings and are known to the village as such. When the 
man dies, the village headman and the elders of the family scrutinise 
the claims of the adopted son and if they are satisfied they recognise 
him as the legal heir to the property. It is only when a family possesses 
substantial property that disputes regarding inheritance crop up, 
otherwise the elders of the village settle the question of inheritance and 
customary rules decide the issues involved. 

In winter, cold is extremely servere on the hill tops and all 
communications are interrupted on account of snowfalls. For days, 
weeks and even months, the villages remain cut off from the outside 
world and all provisions must be secured before winter sets in, so that 
they may not starve during the period they have to remain within 
doors. It is during the winter, that feasts and festivals are in 
abundance, and substantial villagers, sayanas and headmen of 
important families invite the poor people, their tenants and depen- 
dents and entertain them on bread, wine and meat, so that they may 
tide over the period of stress and strain due to their incapacity or 
indigence. 



tHE kHASAS OF JAUNSAR-6AWA& 



181 



Nightly dance and music within closed doors, masked enter- 
tainments and mimetic dances, dramatic representations of famous 
incidents from the epics, soothsaying and divination cut short the long 
nights and light heart and sweet temper make for cordiality which 
manifest in gaiety and licence, in heart breakings and separation 
and in unions of hearts. 

Anthropometric Data. 

TABLE I. 

Comparative means for Series of Jaunsar Khasas (Rajputs and 
Brahmins) and the Koltas and other artisan castes with Probable 
Errots. 



Characters 


Brahmins 
(100) 


Rajputs 
(100) 


Koltas and 
*others(100) 


1. Head Length 


192'9-61 


i93-7*63 


19 1-6 '40 


2. Head Breadth 


137'6'35 


138-7-52 


139-9 '34 


3. Bizygomatic Breadth 


13HJZ-31 


132-2 '49 


1306*30 


4. Bigonial distance 


99' 7 -38 


99-6 '67 


98-3 -35 


5. Nasal Length 


53-4d:-28 


53-0-31 


51-0-31 


6. Nasal Breadth 


35-4-21 


35-7 '27 


38-0'31 


7. Nasal Height 


24-2 '12 


24-9 -17 


22'8-81 


8. Nasion to Crinion 


55-6 '41 


54 8 i -53 


55-3 -44 


9. Total facial length 


117-7;L'44 


118-1 '67 


11 3*2 '44 


10. Upper facial length 


64-2 -29 


64-4-41 


62'0'24 


1 1 . Orbito Nasal Breadth 


101-0-25 


102-5 42 


101-5-27 


12. Orbito Nasal Arc 


116-3-28 


116-8 -54 


114-4-30 


13. Stature (Cms.) 


163-3-50 


162'4-57 


161-1 '43 


14. Sitting Height (Cms.) 


80-0-31 


81-8-38 


80'5-23 


15. Span (Cms.) 


167-7'44 


168-9 '80 


166-4-34 



182 



f HE tfORTtfNES OF PRIMITIVE RlfiS 



TABLE II. 

Comparative Standard Deviations for Series of Jaunsar Khasas 
(Rajputs and Brahmins) and the Koltas and other artisan castes 
with Probable Errors, 



Characters 


Brahmins 
(100) 


Rajputs 
(100) 


Koltas and 
others (100) 


1. Head Length 


6-4-43 


6-6 '45 


4*2 '28 


2. Head Breadth 


3-7'25 


5-4-37 


3-6'24 


3. Bizygomatic Breadth 


3-2 '22 


5-6-35 


3-l'21 


4. Bigonial Distance 


40-27 


7-0'47 


3-7'25 


5. Nasal Length 


2'9 -20 


3-2 '22 


3-3-22 


6. Nasal Breadth 


2'2-15 


2-8-19 


2'4-16 


7. Nasal Hejght 


1-3 '08 


18'12 


1-9'12 


8. Nasion to Crinion 


4-3 i -29 


5-6-37 


4'6'31 


9. Total Facial Length 


4-6-31 


7-0-47 


4-6'31 


10. Upper Facial Length 


3'0-20 


4-3'29 


2-5-17 


1 1 . Orbito Nasal Length 


2-6db'17 


4-4-30 


2-8'19 


12. Orbito Nasal Arc 


2-9i-20 


5'7'38 


3'1'21 


13. Stature 


5-2 -35 


6-0 '40 


4-5-30 


14. Sitting Height 


3-3i-22 


4-Oi 27 


2-4-16 


15. Span 


4-6-31 


8-4i-57 


3'6-24 



THE KHASAS 



183 



TABLE III. 

Significance Ratios for Series of Jaunsar Khasas (Rajputs and 
Brahmins) and the Koltas and other artisans castes. Comparison of 
Means and the Probable Errors (only values above 3 are given) . 





Brahmins (A) 
and 
Rajputs (B) 


Brahmins (A) 
and 
Koltas (C) 


Rajputs (B) 
and 
Koltas (G) 


Head Length 








Head Breadth 








Head Height 




10 


7 


Bizygomatic Breadth 








Bigonial Breadth 








Nasal Length 




5 


4-6 


Nasal Breadth 




7 


6 


Nasal Height 


3-3 


6 


8 


Nasion to Crinion 








Total Facial Length 




7 


5 


Upper Facial Length 


3-1 


5 


5 


Orbito Nasal Breadth 








Orbito Nasal Arc 




4-7 


3-9 


Stature 




3-3 




Sitting Height 


36 






Span 









184 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

TABLE IV. 

Mean Age and Standard Deviation for Groups of Jaunsar 
Males representing higher and lower castes. 



X 

Name of the social group. 


Mean Age. 


Standard 
Deviation. 


Brahmins . * 


33-2 


5-5 


Rajputs 


35-9 


7-5 


Koltas and other artisan castes 


31-8 


5-9 



THE CRIMINAL TRIBES. 

fnr HAT crime is hereditary no one would seriously believe, but 
JL that men are born to crime is known to all. There are over 
1,400,000 men, women and children in the United Provinces alone 
who are tied to crime from birth and by profession. These belong 
to all religions, particularly Hindus and Muslims. ' Other provinces 
and states also provide such criminal population* 'Chhaparbands are 
Deccanese Muslims' who are manufacturers of counterfeit coins; c the 
Baid Mussalmans come from the Rajputana states'; and the ' Mecca 
Moallems of Dacca district in Bengal are a swindling fraternity pro- 
fessing Islam'. r The Hindu castes contribute the major proportion of 
the criminal tribes in northern India. There aie no less than 50 tribes 
who live a life of crime and are under police surveillance as required 
by the Criminal Tribes Act. These are scattered all over the land and 
though large sections of these tribes have settled down in permanent 
homes and have taken to ostensible means of livelihood, there are still 
others who wander in groups of families in search of livelihood, and 
where they fail to make by honest means, they take to petty theft 
and pilfering and even to serious forms of crime with or without 
violence. j 

f The Moghias, Beriyas, Baurias, Sonaris, Haburas, Kanjars, Bhatus, 
Dosads, Banfars, Bagdis, Mochis, Doms and Pasis and many similar 
groups wander about with their women, children and chattels from 
place to place, some earning their livelihood by deceit and theft, 
others organising gangs which commit more serious crimes like dacoity 
and robbery, but most pretending to follow occupations which do not 
encourage suspicion in the minds of their clientele. In recent 
years, large sections of these tribes have taken to a settled life, both 
in the provinces and the states, and where they have done so, they are 
practically indistinguishable from the many agricultural castes in 
their neighbourhood, such as the Dhakars, Kurmis, the Koiris and 
the Lodhas. Those of them that lived by serving settled villagers as 
artisans, musicians, dancers, acrobats, bards or geneologists find 
it extremely difficult to get on, and willingly or not some of these 

24 



186 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

have been drawn into the ranks of criminal tribes, The increasing 
menace of these vagrant tribes to the peaceful villagers,, sometimes 
even to urban centres., have led the authorities to take various steps 
to settle them on land or to provide some stable occupation for them. 
Police vigilance has no doubt put much restraint on the criminal 
tendencies of these tribes, but they have also developed efficient gang 
organisation to evade the police or fight them whenever necessary, 
so that very often the vigilance of the police is rendered ineffective 
or insufficient to cope with their increasing activities. * 

A former Inspector-General of Prisons, U.P., gave the following 
estimate of the extent of damage to life and property done by these 
tribes: in one year (1938), "property worth 30 lakhs was stolen by 
them in the U.P. There were no less than 34,000 cases of burglary 
and 3,400 cases of cattle lifting in that year alone committed by 
members of these tribes." They have also the largest representation 
in the prison population of the province. 40,000 members of these 
tribes are Registered Criminals in the U.P.; 11,000 in the Punjab 
and 13,000 in Bombay. 21 p.c, of the inmates of the Benares State 
Jail are reported to have come from the criminal tribes in 1938. 

*The wandering or vagrant tribes are not a homogeneous lot; 
ethnically they are mixed groups. They possess physical traits 
characteristic of the important racial stocks in varied proportions. At 
one end of the racial scale they resemble the australoid Sonthals and 
Mundas, as for example the eastern Doms of the United Provinces 
some of whom settled in the Gorakhpur area; while at the other 
end they are found to possess tall stature, fair complexion, long head, 
fine or acquiline nose even grey or hazel eyes are noticeable. The 
Nats represent a variety of types, their women are usually more 
handsome than men, and this has encouraged them to use them for 
immoral purposes and many live on the unchastity of their girls. 
Baheliyas are a brave lot and usually supply the beat shikaris who 
track down game and arrange shooting parties. The unanimous 
testimony of hunters, European and Indian, stamps the Baheliya 
as a fine athletic, bold, plucky and sociable tribe./ 

' From anthropometric measurements it appears that the 
various criminal tribes do not belong to the same race but certain 



tHE CRIMINAL TRIBES 187 

tribes can be affiliated to one racial type, others to a second, and inter- 
group differences are often large./ The Doms of the eastern districts 
possess the highest average stature, viz., 166.53 cms., the Haburas 
come next with 164.91 and the Bhatus 163.13. All the criminal 
tribes are long-headed; the mean cephalic index of the Habura is 
73.71, Dom 73.79 and the Bhatu 74.83. There is a progressive 
broadening of the head from the eastern to the western districts of 
the U.P. among the vagrant and criminal sections of the tribal popula- 
tion showing perhaps assimilation of a brachy cephalic element. 
The australoid admixture of the Doms, often so apparent to field 
investigators, is seen in the shape and form of the nose. The mean 
nasal index of the Bhatu is 68.47, that of the Habura 71.21, while that 
of the Dom is 75.70. Individuals with flat nose, very dark com- 
plexion and short stature are frequently met with among the Doms, 
but their general features have undergone great change due perhaps 
to free mixing they have had through centuries of contacts with 
higher racial groups. While fine or even aquiline nose is found in 
plenty among the Bhatus and the Sansiyas, the Doms do not show 
such incidence; on the other hand the general feature of the Doms 
affiliate them more to the Munda, Sonthal and cognate tribes of 
Chota-Nagpur and adjacent areas than to the Kanjars, Karwals, 
Sansiyas and Bhatus. The latter tribes are more or less of the same 
ethnic type but have mixed in varying proportions with others. 
Crooke was right when he wrote, ''There can be little doubt that 
the Kanjars are a branch of the great nomadic race which includes 
the Sansiya, Habura, Beriya, Bhatu and more distant kindred such 
as the Nat, Banjara, Baheliya, etc." But his suggestion of Dravidian 
origin of the aggregate of vagrant tribes is based on insufficient 
evidence. The Bhatus and the Sansiyas, the Karwals and the 
Haburas, even the Bijori Kanjars, now distributed in Gwalior, Tonk, 
Bundi and Kotah States, do not show Dravidian features if we use 
the word in the sense Risley has done. 

/ In blood groups, however, the various criminal tribes or sec- 
tions of them do not show much significant differences. There is a 
preponderance of B and AB among the criminal tribes which may 
be due to hybridisation or to a high rate of B mutation | Similar 



THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

high B incidence is found among the Muslims of Bengal. The 
Bhatus show 27.4 p.c. O; 24.7 A; 39.8 B; and 7.8 p.c. AB. The 
Karwals have 25.8 p.c. O; 22.6 p.c. A; 40.6 p.c. B; and 10.9 p.c. AB; 
the Doms have 32.8 p.c. O; 22.8 p.c. A; 39.4 p.c, B; and 5.0 AB. 
A high B incidence is noticeable among large sections of people in 
India and this has encouraged some workers to trace the source of B 
mutation in India. We have pointed out elsewhere that most of the 
tribes and castes in India who possess a high B incidence are known 
to be mixed groups and we may therefore provisionally conclude that 
the criminal tribes are highly heterogeneous and possess non- 
aboriginal blood groups. The criminal Doms, how r cver, have a high 
O percentage and small A. 

All vagrant tribes are not disreputable, for there are many 
like the Bansphor or Basor who work on bamboo, make baskets, mats, 
and similar articles and act as scavengers. They live honestly and are 
not regarded with suspicion by the people whom they seive. The 
Ghirimar or fowler,, the nearest kin of the Baheliya, is a welcome 
visitor in the village market or in towns, who catches birds by 
trapping or shooting and sells the game to people. The Nats wander 
about with their bag and baggage from village to village, carrying 
them on the backs of oxen or donkeys. Wheie they camp, they 
go out in batches either as acrobats or dancers, as indigenous dentists 
or suppliers of rare nostrums for chronic maladies or for restoring the 
lost manhood of the village folk. Their wares consist of roots and 
herbs which they display in the fashion of expert window dressers and 
they engage touts to explain to the villagers the efficacy of their 
pharmacopoeia. They also sell talisman for luck and some of them 
are expert in extracting worms frOm carious teeth which they do by 
touching the affected gums with some kind of dried root. Magic 
and witchcraft come handy with some, and protective charms against 
evil spirits are distributed generously to the people which helps 
to establish confidence in them. Live snakes are also kept by them 
and the venom from them is skilfully extracted in the presence of 
admiring crowds by administering soft touches with the magic wand 
or root possessed by them. They afford plenty of amusement to the 
village or town where they stop, but when they leave the village not 



THE CRIMINAL TRlfcES 

a few of the families curse them for what their stay has meant to 
them. 

The Kanjars are an interesting vagrant tribe and their 
encampments are found all over northern India. In earlier days they 
practised jajmani, as they say., and for entertaining the villages they 
passed through they used to receive voluntary annual but liberal 
contributions for their services. The Kanjars had their jurisdiction 
distributed among their families, and each family had a few villages 
on which they levied periodical charge. They were so popular as 
dancers and musicians that the villagers used to make gifts of cattle 
and money. They also served the Gujars, the Minas and other 
castes as bards or gencologists and memorised the pedigrees of the 
families and their achievements which they annually recited before 
them to deserve the voluntary gifts. Today these occupations do 
not pay, for the people have lost their interest in their pedigrees or 
they are more interested in their material possessions so that the 
Kanjars have to eke out their subsistence in other ways. There is 
some similarity between the Kanjars and Gujars for the latter's dress 
is worn by the Kanjars. Women among other castes put on lehanga 
(skirt), but like the Kanjar women, the Muslim women in these 
parts, put on kurta and a pair of trousers. This, however, gives them 
a distinction. The Kanjars have an extremely varied dietary. Their 
usual food consists of millets, fruits and roots which they glean from 
the forests and birds which they skilfully bag. But they are known 
to eat the flesh of all animals and even toads, reptiles and carrion 
do not come amiss to them. They know how to cure the meat of 
snakes, lizards and vultures and even if they do not eat them, they 
extract the fat or oil from these which they sell to people or use them- 
selves. Ordinarily they do not admit that they take meat usually 
tabooed to the Hindus, but they seldom will let slip any such prospect. 
They are fond of drinks and would not complete any feast without 
emptying a bottle if they can afford it. 

The occupations of the Kanjars which do not bring them 
against the provisions of the Indian Penal Code are not many. 
They are traditional beggars and even if begging is not required, 
a Kanjar woman will take her bowl and visit the families in the 



190 ?HE FORTUNES Otf PHlMltlV^ TRIMS 



neighbourhood of their temporary encampment/ This gives her 
chance of exchanging a few words with the housewives so that she 
may induce them to part with their money by giving medicines to 
cure barrenness or any malady in the family. All this is cleverly 
managed and before the news reaches the ears of the head of the 
family,, the encampment disappears and nothing is heard of them for 
months or more. Music and dancing are the ostensible means of 
livelihood for the Kanjars. Their songs are mostly of amorous nature 
with a passionate appeal. l 

The Kanjars confine their marriages within the tribe. There 
are a number of clans among them with exogamous subsepts. The 
names of the clans are derived from totems or from trades or from 
famous forbears. Besides the rule of clan exogamy , they also recog- 
nise the usual prohibited degrees. These restrictions, however, 
are not absolute for when they want they can and do marry 
within the same exogamous clan or sept. Marriage is performed 
always after puberty and girls seldom marry before they are 18 
or 20. There is considerable laxity in morals among the Kanjars 
but chastity after marriage is prescribed and observed and the tribal 
panchayat views with alarm any case of lapse in this respect. 

The bride price is usually high among the Kanjars and is 
paid in two instalments., once before marriage and once after the 
woman has given proof of her fertility. Betrothal is usually followed 
by marriage and if it is for any reason postponed , the father of the 
bridegroom has to make occasional presents to the bride's family 
so that his interest in the settlement may not be questioned by the 
members of the bride's clan. Although arranged marriages are cus- 
tomary,, marriage by elopement is not rare,, and when the couple 
return after some time., the tribal or clan panchayat insist on a formal 
feast which admits the couple to the clan of the husband. 

Marriage is a communal undertaking among the Kanjars. 
The Pa tel or headman of the group puts on the tilak on the forehead 
of the bridegroom after which the latter is taken to the mother-in- 
law who receives him with presents. He is then seated on a horse 
and taken from house to house and every family has to pay a certain 
present, either a silver coin or a piece of cloth, and each family is 



THE CRIMINAL TRIBES 191 

represented by at least one person in the procession. The amount thus 
collected is spent on feasts in which meat and wine figure prominently. 
There are various methods by which a wife may be admitted into 
the clan of the husband. Today the entry of the bride into the 
clan of the bridegroom is not sealed by human blood., but the blood 
of the sacrificed animal replaces human blood and the common 
partaking of liquor mixed with this blood effects the ceremonial 
union of the couple. Among the Kanjars, identification of the bride 
with the clan of the bridegroom is also made by eating a piece of 
roasted meat, usually a goat's heart or liver. The bridegroom bites 
a slice off his piece and asks the bride to do the same to the other 
half. The latter may not do so vouluntarily and the bridegroom 
puts the slice between his teeth and tries to put the other end into 
the bride's mouth. This leads to a trial of strength and provides 
plenty of fun and entertainment to the crowd who watch them do it. 
f The phera or the binding part of the marriage ceremony is 
completed after the couple have circumambulated the marriage 
pole seven times. This has to be done with caution as the bride 
according to custom, may also give a sudden push or pull to the bride- 
groom so that the latter may lose his foothold and slip down to 
the amusement of the crowd. If she succeeds, it is believed that the 
wife would get the better of the husband and it is a fact that the 
Kanjar husband has a reputation of being extremely docile and even 
henpecked. r Remarriage of a widow is allowed, and if the widow 
does not marry the younger brother of the deceased husband he 
or his family receives a heavy compensation from the next husband 
of the widow/ The settled Kanjars do not allow frequent divorce 
as the wife is expected to be faithful to the husband and loyal to his 
family. A Kanjar woman does not ordinarily offend against the 
marital code of the tribe. But adultery is regarded as a serious social 
lapse and the woman as well as her partner in the misdemeanour 
have to answer to the panchayat who may award heavy compensa- 
tion to the aggrieved husband. Failure to comply with the decision 
of the panchayat entitles the husband to lay hand on any movable 
property of the other man and even his son or daughter by usage 
may be transferred to the aggrieved husband as compensation. 



192 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

There is a strong panchayat among the Kanjars and its powers 
are unlimited. Any offence against the tribe or the nomadic group 
is severely punished and there are interesting methods of ascertain- 
ing guilt. An unchaste woman has to prove her innocence by putting 
a piece of hot iron on her palm covered with seven leaves and with 
this she has to move seven steps forward. If she burns her palm., she is 
declared guilty. Side by side with the Hindu deities, they worship 
the village godling and 'mother earth. These are known as Almundi 
and Asapala and they offer sacrifices of goat,, pig and fowls whenever 
they think that their distress is due to the wrath of these godlings/ 

The Doms are scattered all over India. The U.P. Doms are 
divided into two branches,, one settled the other vagrant. Those 
who live in the cities or in their vicinity belong to the former section., 
while the nomadic Doms infest the eastern districts of the U.P. and 
Bihar. "The Nomadic Dom", writes Sir William Crooke (Tribes 
and Castes of the N.W. Provinces], "is a shameless vagrant., an eater 
of the leaving and carrion., a beggar,, a thief". The nomadic Dom 
has not shown his skill in any work. He roams in the jungle but has 
not learnt the ways of the fowler 01 the bird catcher. He is an in- 
different fisherman,, and an ill-equipped hunter. He., therefore, has 
accustomed himself to a diet which does not require much effort to 
secure carrion,, vermin, leavings of other tribes and not impro- 
perly is he compared to a washerman's donkey for which he has 
natuially developed an aversion. In recent years some of the 
nomadic Doms have settled down as scavengers or as workers in 
bamboo or chik and when they have been brought in contact with 
civilisation they have adopted occupations to which they have never 
been used to. ''The Gorakhpur settlement where they have been 
confined for purposes of reclamation find them even good culti- 
vators but like most of the criminal tribes they believe in little 
work and quick return, so that agriculture as a permanent means of 
livelihood has little appeal for them. All criminal tribes share in 
this attitude and they would rather work for less and get the reward 
immediately than wait a week or a month and receive more. The 
sugar crop must not remain for long in the field, and if they are not 
allowed to harvest it before the crop is fully mature they would? 



Habura women from 
Cawnpore 








A Karwal youngman from the Aryanagar 
criminal Tribes' settlement, Lucknow. 



A childffn* The 

is a in the 

and his 
They AT$ 
of thi C, T, 





A of Dom from the C. T. 

settlement Gorakhpur* Theit 

is fair and features 



THE CRIMINAL TRIBES 193 

stealthily cut the canes and sell them for cash, so that by the time 
the harvesting of the crops starts their fields no longer contain 
anything of value. 

' In India the raising of social status is a means to an end and 
every social group, tribe or caste has a mythical descent and a 
traditional past. Each tribe 'or caste memorises its pedigree and 
even the totemic tribes claim fictitious parentage/ Totems are 
transformed into eponyms to mark social ascent and the tortoise 
t&tem finds its ancestor in the mythical saint Kashyap (though it is 
a variant of kacchap or tortoise) and the snake clan claims descent 
from Nagaraj, -the king of * snakes. The Doms, however despised 
and detested they may be and even if they are the lowest of all the 
social groups as Crooke calls them ("the true survival of the loathsome 
Ghandala)/' many have an ancestry which their tradition has care- 
fully preserved and which today forms the basis of their claim to 
a higher social status. The Punjab tradition claims for them a 
Brahmin parentage while another popular tradition traces them from 
Raja Ben or- Vena and one of their sub-clans is still known as Ben 
Bansi. 

Regarding their racial origins, opinions are far from unanimous. 
Sir H. M. Elliot considers the Doms to be "one of the oiiginal tribes 
of India." Risley traces them to the aboriginal stock. Dr. Caldwell 
(Grammar of the Dravidian Languages, 546, quoted by Risley in Tribes 
and Castes of Bengal, 240) thinks that they are the surviving representa- 
tives of an older, ruder., and blacker race who preceded the Dravidians 
in India. Some describe the Doms as "a small and dark people with 
long tresses of unkempt hair and the peculiar glassy eye of the non- 
Aryan autochthon" (Tribes and Castes of the North Western Provinces 
Vol. I, 401). Sherring describes the Doms as dark complexioned, 
low of stature, somewhat repulsive in appearance, and readily 
distinguished from all the better castes of Hindus. Risley, however, 
recognises the appreciable varieties of the Dom physical type and 
traces them to their being widely diffused all over. Dr. Wise could 
not find much similarity between the eastern Doms and the Munda- 
speaking tribes of Chota-Nagpur plateau, but he could neither 
affiiliate them to the Aryan stock. "The fact", writes Risley, "that for 

25 



194 



THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 



centuries they have been condemned to the most menial duties and 
have served as the helots of the entire village community, would 
of itself be sufficient to break down whatever tribal spirit they may 
once have possessed and to obliterate all structural traces of their 
true origin." The nature of the Dom's work either as scavenger or 
as a 'provider 5 of light for the funeral pyres at the burning ghat 
brings them in daily contact with people of other castes, and the 
lure of immediate rewards has appealed to the women of the tribe, 
so that immorality as a profession of the women has had significant 
influence in shaping the physical features of their descendants. Thus 
the Dom today is a hybrid group. The hill Doms have mixed with 
the Khasas and other Indo-Aryan tribes which still live in the 
recesses of the hills and forests of the Himalayan region, while the 
Doms of the plains have assimilated features which belong to 
many of the strains that have contributed to the raciology of the 
plains. 

I do not think there exists any blood group data for the Doms, 
either from criminal tribes in settlements or from outside. Of the 
many groups tested by Malonc and Lahiri, the Doms were not men- 
tioned as one. The results are expected to throw some light on the 
racial affiliation of the tribe, of course compared along with other 
anthropometric characters. The table below shows the percentage 
of blood groups in the samples examined : 





O 


A 


B 


AB 


Doms of Gorakhpur (no. 180) 


59 


41 


71 


9 


Percentages . . 


32-8 


22-3 


39-4 


5-0 


Hill Doms, Dehra Dun 










Kalsi and Jaunsar Bawar (no. 125). 


36-0 


20-0 


33-8 


10-2 



A comparison of the hill Dom data with those of the criminal 
Doms of Gorakhpur shows some apparently significant difference. 
The hill Doms possess higher O than the criminal Doms, though the 
women among the latter show a slightly higher O concentration, 37 
p.c. against 36 p.c. of the former. Both the criminal Doms male 



t&E CklMINAL TRIBES 195 

and female groups show a high percentage of B, the males 38.3 p.c., 
females, 40.7 p.c., but the corresponding B among the hill Doms 
is only 33.8 p.c. This high B among the criminal tribes may indicate 
'inbreeding condition' or a rapid rate or frequency of B mutation or 
mixture with a people of high B concentration. As with the Bhatus 
and the Karwals, two other crminal tribes we have examined, the 
criminal Doms show a high B concentration, which distinguishes 
them particularly from the hill Doms and also from the normal 
population in the neighbourhood. 

(Another wandering tribe is the Satia who claims Rajput 
descent and is organised into clans which are commonly found among 
the Rajputs) They are Hindus and live by keeping and selling 
bullocks and oxen. The women put on saris similar to those worn 
by the low agricultural castes and tribes and are therefore not much 
different from the latter. They move about from place to place 
with their cart houses, pack animals and cattle. They buy young 
oxen, castrate them and when they grow up, they sell them at a 
high price. Their occupation has been responsible for their social 
degradation and they are considered by orthodox Hindus as little 
better than the Bhangis although they themselves would claim the 
Mafwaris as their kinsmen. 

jThe Satias are extremely fond of wine and meat and they are 
often prepared to risk their property and mortgage their wives and 
daughters to obtain these amenities^ When a husband contracts a 
debt from a clansman and if the debt is not repaid within a certain 
stipulated period, the Satia will offer his wife to the creditor who would 
sexually possess her so long as the debt remains unpaid. If a child 
is born during the usufructuary period, it is not claimed by the 
actual husband and is left with the man who substituted the husband 
and sexually possessed the woman. Cases occur when all the young 
female relations of a Satia have one after another been similarly 
pawned or mortgaged, but when he can free himself from the 
obligations the women return to him and there is no social stigma 
attaching to their temporary transfer. The Satia, says the proverb, 
thinks twice before he dies. It is customary for him to spend 
lavishly on funeral ceremonies and when he loses his grandmother 



196 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

by death, he loses his wife in the bargain, for that is the usual way 
to raise money he has to spend on the ceremony. 

Meat and liquor are equally popular witn them. Excessive 
liquor has destroyed many a Satia home and has increased their 
miseries, yet the lessons of temperance are as far as ever from their 
minds. They simply booze themselves on any intoxicating stuff 
they may secure, and when ceremonies and festivals are far away, 
they get up saturnalias or even celebrate the incompetence of their 
colleagues by making them pay for their failure to respond to the 
demands of their trade, namely, theft and brigandage. Such impor- 
tunity is often manifest in the absurd extent to which the Satia would 
go to enforce a contract he may have forced on others by guile or 
false presentation. He does not stop at peaceful methods and would 
even take the law into his own hand and demand his 'pound of 
flesh 5 . Once a Satia had bargained with a Koiri for the purchase of 
the latters's bullock, but the Koiri* ultimately refused to honour the 
contract and sought the aid of his caste fellows who saved him from 
his importunate customer. The Satia did not forget this insult 
though apparently he seemed to bow to this misfortune. Two years 
later the Koiri met the Satia who embraced him and pleaded 
friendship. Both were going the same way and met accidentally 
in the evening; both decided to rest for the night at a place and the 
Koiri was asked to prepare food for both, the Satia serving him in the 
capacity of a servant. When the food was served, the Satia refused 
to take it before the former had finished his meal as a mark of respect 
he had for his friend. While the Koiri was taking his food he smelled 
filth, and looked into the pot containing the dal and immediately 
started disgorging what he had taken. When he could look round 
he found his friend had already left him. The Satia had taken his 
revenge, though not in good taste. 

Once a Satia was telling me of the curse that rests on their tribe 
from the very early times. Originally they were not a nomadic 
tribe; they lived in settlements and built even substantial houses. 
An ancestor of the tribe offended the tribal god Data Sahib by 
polluting the offering meant for him and the latter threw the curse 
on the entire tribe^ saying that they would henceforward never live 



THE CRIMINAL TRIBES 197 

under permanent structures and if they did the house was sure to be 
destroyed by divine wrath, by fire or storm. The dread of supersti- 
tion has narrowed their outlook on life and where individuality raises 
its head, the rigid panchayal system puts it down with a strong hand. 

The Palel who presides over the panchayat is a strong man whose 
word is law and whose control extends to all aspects of the tribal 
life. Fines are the usual method of retribution and feasts the tribal 
sanction among the Satias. Women have an unusually low status 
and they are often subject to great hardship, often to their masters' 
brutality. They are sold like cattle and transferred like chattels, 
yet such is their adaptability that a married woman may change 
hands several times during her life but when restored to the husband 
at the expiry of the period of mortgage, she seldom fails in her obliga- 
tions to her permanent partner. She appeals while in distress to the 
peepul tree which is prayed to and propitiated, and in all oaths and 
promises the peepul tree must be referred to either as witness or as a 
divine retributor and also as tribal mentor for those who know the 
unspoken language of the tree, the clash of its branches and the 
rustling of the leaves. Libations of liquor are offered to the peepul 
tree in times of distress and mounds of earth and small stones are 
put under it as votive offerings. 

Various sections of the Bauria tribe are scattered all over 
northern India. They arc found in Rajputana, the jungles of 
Firozpur and Sirsa in the Punjab, in Delhi, in the western districts 
of the U.P., and they may be traced as far as Bengal. Originally 
they claim to have been descended from the Rajputs, from Chanda 
and Jora, and remember the good old days when they were in the 
service of the Rajas of Ghitor as musketeers. Their features no 
doubt bear them out as Rajputs though they appear to have seen 
evil days and have mixed with some 'foul feeding' tribes which has 
stamped them as an amalgam of races. 

Ihe Baurias allow great liberty to their women and permit 
even strangers to their embrace. Widows are remarried and divorce 
is freely peimitted. They recruit women by kidnapping small girls 
whom they lure by food and cheap presents. Occasionally they 
would visit distant villages, get familiar with low caste people, interest 



198 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

themselves in their social life and would advise them in their misfor- 
tune. Some would dress as Sadhu or paint themselves as devoted 
Vaishnava gossain, and even establish themselves as guru or spiritual 
preceptors of the low caste people ultimately tempting them to join 
them as tribesmen. The Baurias in western U.P. are often seen to 
spend money in educating their children and a working knowledge of 
Sanskrit is greatly appreciated by them in their children. Women 
of other caste who are maltreated by their husbands and are divorced 
find ready welcome to their families and add to the strength of the 
tribe. The free life their women are allowed to live., the sexual 
liberty they possess and above all the authority they wield in domestic 
life, all go to make the new entrants to the tribe, faithful to the tribal 
code. Often they make efficient decoys and informers and help the 
tribe in its criminal activities. Women among the Baurias are deli- 
berately prostituted for income or for information equipping them 
with knowledge about the material status of their prospective 
victims. 

^The Bauria men wander about in the garb of Sadhus ostensibly 
for religious mendicancy, but in fact with criminal intent and are 
responsible for big dacoities with or without violence. The Baurias 
have an efficient criminal organisation. They communicate with 
each other by signs and symbols and there is perfect understanding 
between men and women about the methods of committing crime, 
disposal of stolen property, arrangement for litigation, etc. They 
usually rob substantial people as they detest depriving poor peoples 
and those who make an honest living by manual labour of their hard 
earned income. Their panchavat organisation is highly efficient and 
controls the affairs of the tribe with commendable skill. They 
arrange with villagers by promising shares of the booty before they 
move into the village. They sometimes pose as' members of high 
castes and arrange to marry their daughters to well-to-do people 
whom afterwards they plunder in collusion with them. They have a 
curious logic about crime. If they want to enter a house for theft 
they would throw three stones one after another to see if the inmates 
are awake. They argue that if the householder has earned money 
by honest efforts and hard lab our, he must keep awake, but if he has 



THE CRIMINAL TRIBES 199 

inherited the money or earned it by dishonest means, he will not do 
so and will not wake up on hearing the sound of the stones thrown at 
his house. It is the latter class of people the Baurias are anxious 
to rob, for that helps in the proper distribution of wealth, as 
they say. 1 

Political and social divisions have often coalesced to produce 
endogamous sections among the nomadic and vagrant tribes. Some- 
times a number of gangs have fused into one big tribe or a section of 
it or the same gang has formed various endogamous groups by a 
process of fission/ The Bhatus claim the Gccdhias, Kanjars, Kahrkut, 
Karwals and Kanphattas as sections of their own tribe, who now 
form endogamous groups in different provinces. The Sansiyas name 
their sections after gang leaders who are of both sexes. The nomadic 
tribes moved in hordes from place to place each under a powerful 
leader who ruled his camp with, iron discipline and also gave the 
name to the group or horde. In course of time each horde developed 
into an endogamous group. When several leaders moved out with 
their followers in different directions, the endogamy of the original 
gang was difficult to maintain, so that sections of the original gang 
became exogamous to one another maintaining a sort of tribal 
endogamy, though not of the closed type. 

'The power behind the solidarity of the criminal gangs is the 
efficient panchayat system which often is a central organisation for the 
whole tribe and which controls the social as well as the political acti- 
vities of the members of the tribe. It is not only an organisation 
for maintaining discipline and watch over recalcitrant members, but 
it has positive functions to fulfil such as organising crime, recruiting 
members, apportioning duties and maintaining individual families 
and groups whose members suffer injuries in action or are killed in 
such enterprise. 

( The panchayat system is not peculiar to any racial type, neither 
is it the monopoly of the Indo-Aryan races. The growth of this 
system can be traced to primitive conditions where a tribal society 
contented itself by conforming to established ways the violation of 
which was believed to bring down its vengeance on the offender. 
Where taboos have not lost their significance and their inner strength 



200 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

is recognised, there is an automatic response to customary observances 
for the consciousness of the power of the taboo proves a sufficiently 
stiong corrective.* When the tribal code, its positive and negative 
controls, lose their supernatural sanctions, as they must with the 
development of personality and individuality in the people, it is left 
to the society to uphold the cause of the violated taboo by social pres- 
criptions and a code of conduct deliberately designed. 

The Indo-Aryan villages in the U.P., Bihar and Bengal are 
broken up into main and minor sub-divisions. Each of these sub- 
divisions often represents a distinctive craft or occupation. In the 
panchayat of the village as a whole each of the diverse functional 
interest is represented and the grouping "no longer remains on the 
tribal basis of kinship, clan and adoption, but becomes a distinctive 
polity based on community of social and economic interests." In 
villages inhabited by a number of social groups or castes there is 
generally one representative for each caste, occupation or guild. In 
villages where the clean and unclean castes live together, there are 
usually two distinct panchayats , one for the clean castes and one for the 
unclean castes. The composition of the latter is usually different 
from that of the former. In the latter case very often all the elderly 
members of the caste sit in judgment and there is no election or selec- 
tion of representatives to the panchayat. It must be recognised that 
the duties of the panchayat are not everywhere the same, the nature 
and variety of offences have a relation to the economic status of the 
social group concerned. But usually everything of common interest 
is settled by the panchayot and discussions, formal and informal, 
shape public opinion, if any. 

The panchayat of each caste or tribe has its own problems 
to deal with, for example the offences that the Kahar panchayat of 
the Kheri district have to decide are theft in the master's house, 
adultery, keeping a concubine of another caste, enticing away a 
married woman, eating, drinking or smoking with 1 member of a 
'forbidden caste', refusing to marry after the betrothal ceremony has 
been gone through, refusing to support a wife or to go through the 
gauna after marriage. The Ghamars have a highly efficient panchayat 
organisation. Extra-marital intimacy, concubinage, adultery, 



A Dom 





A in tie 







A * 




An Old 

his 

of 

now living in 



THE CRIMINAL TRIBES 201 

adoption of hew occupations, removal of caicass or carrrion, of horse 
dung, are' some af '.the important "dont's" that it has to settle and 
arbitrate. * , , ; 

The importance of the panchayat and the 'sanction of its decisions 
is derived from the fact that the illiterate masses for which the 
system ordinarily caters believe that gods reside in th& panchayat and 
the parties to a dispute are'seen to address the panchayat as 'God' or 
representatives of God on earth-' Punishments imposed by the 
panchayat also differ from caste to caste. But wherever the castes or 
tribes have come into intimate social contacts with higher castes, 
the forms of punishments have undergone change. Feeding of the 
caste people has been replaced by feeding of Brahmins and oaths 
of indigenous character have been replaced or supplemented by those 
current among the higher castes. Priests have prescribed religious 
atonement in some cases, and serious offences have been condoned 
by the panchayat on complying with such prescription. 

Adultery among the Nats is met by a fine of Rs. 50 or more. 
Among the Pasis, the woman concerned is tied to a tree and her 
parents fined Rs. 100 or more. A Bhangi abducted a married woman 
and was found guilty by the panchayat. His face was painted black 
and he was paraded on the streets. A man is often taken to task for 
the misbehaviour of his wife or when he cannot control his wife. A 
Kanjar had illicit relations with a married woman of another caste. 
The panchayat of the village fined the Kanjar and ordered the husband 
of the woman to feed five Brahmins. A Bhatu in spite of his repeated 
warning to his wife could not check her clandestine relations with the 
village Chowkidar. So he called a panchayat and explained his diffi- 
culties. The panchayat excommunicated his wife and found the 
Bhatu technically guilty for not informing the panchayat earlier, at 
least not until some members of the village had come to know the 
scandalous affairs of the family. This was considered as lowering the 
reputation of the caste, so the man was fined but not heavily. A 
Bauri killed a cow; he was asked by the panchayat to go on a pilgrimage 
and beg alms enough to feed ten Brahmins. 

The panchayat usually deals with cases of breach of the marital 
code, violation of the commensal rules and also disputes between 



202 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

members about property, land or miscellaneous rights and obligations. 
Eating., drinking or smoking with members of forbidden caste, 
keeping a woman of another caste as a concubine, adultery with 
a married woman, fornication within or outside the caste^. breach of 
promise involving breaking off settled marriages, refusal to send a 
daughter to her husband's house or to maintain a wife, killing tabooed 
animals, e.g., cow, cat and monkey, these are some of the cases that 
the panchayat has to decide. In some cases, it is also necessary to 
retry cases decided by courts of justice, of course at the request of the 
parties to the dispute. Violation of commensal rules is punished by 
ostracism if it is consciously clone, otherwise by a fine which is fixed 
in accordance with the financial status of the offender; poor people 
get over their social lapses by offering a coconut to the tribal deities, 
A man is not allowed to keep a concubine belonging to an inferior 
caste, but if she happens to belong to the same caste or to a higher 
one, the man does not suffer great indignity. He is no doubt out- 
casted, but is reinstated as soon as he can provide for a tribal feast, 
A poor man has to appear before the panchayat with his shoes on his 
head as among the Baurias, but he has also to provide for a feast, which 
may be subscribed by his sympathisers. 

Adultery is always met with fine; when it is within the caste, the 
offender is outcasted and the woman refused sooial protection. In 
some tribes, as among the Kanjars, an adulterer is seldom admitted 
to the clan. The usual fine ranges from Rs. 100 to Rs. 150, some- 
times even more, as among the Bhatus of Moradabad. Cases of forni- 
cation within the tribe must be reported to the panchayat and the girl 
is not allowed to marry by the usual code. Either she has to live with 
the man with whom she had intercourse as his concubine or she has 
to pay a penalty to the panchayat who will secure a husband for her. 
Fine and ostracism are the two weapons with which the panchayat 
is equipped and a judicious handling of both has secured prestige 
to this indigenous system. Public opinion is reflected in the attitude 
of the panchayat and the latter also helps to create public opinion by 
persuasion and propaganda. 

' There are various methods of preventing crime. One is the 
policy of retribution which is not recognised in modern society; <c an 



THE CRIMINAL TRIBES 203 

eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" would involve the society into 
chaos. The idea of restitution meets our social needs in this respect, 
and the panchayat sometimes take recourse to it. A third policy is that 
of reform in which penalties depend not on the nature of crime, but 
on the nature of the criminal. In the functioning of the panchayat 
system, both the policies, viz., of reform and deterrence, find adequate 
recognition and the effective supervision of the panchayat has consi- 
derably reduced the incidence of crime. Although no institutional 
care is provided for certain types of criminals who need it, environ- 
mental influences have succeeded in transforming criminals into good 
citizens. Public opinion is ever the fundamental force that shapes 
individual idiosyncrasies and a strong panchayat can deal with local 
crime more effectively than distant law courts.* 

The main purpose of the panchayat system as among tribes, 
so also in villages, is to regulate activities of members who are 
considered to bring about social chaos and disregard of the interests 
of the group concerned. The panchayat remains a corrective oganisa- 
tion so long as individuality or personality of members remain at 
a low level. Disintegration therefore is bound to occur with ad- 
vancing time due to the growth of personality among the people, but 
even today panchayats have an important role to fulfil which may grow 
in importance along with the increased political consciousness of the 
masses. The panchayat will remain an organisation to bring order 
and uniformity of conduct so long as it is not used for political pur- 
poses by the administration, for it has been seen in tribal areas that 
wherever political and administrative power is given to the tribal 
councils and the latter made responsible to the administration con- 
cerned, the weakness of the councils as an instrument of social welfare 
has become patent. 

The criminal tribes possess a kind of central organisation 
known locally as the panchayat whose functions as we have already 
pointed out, are more inclusive than those of its sister organisations 
in Indian villages. The Sirpanch, the Mukhia or the Patel has a dis- 
tinct status in the criminal tribes because he is not only the spokes- 
man and leader of the panchayat organisation, but he is also the leader 
of gangs, While public opinion is the main support of the village 



204 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

panchayat, the leader of the panchayat in criminal tribes has his gang 
to support him and his influence is sometimes greatly exaggerated by 
his followers/ The activities of the panchayat include supervision of the 
main occupation of the tribe which is theft and dacoity, dissemination 
of useful information to the members engaged in crime., receiving 
stolen property through women generally who are trained for the 
purpose thus providing compensation to families deprived of earning 
members who are killed in action or arrested and imprisoned for 
crime, and training of men and women., particularly young girls in 
crime and criminality. 

The Bhatu panchayat keeps a record of the members of the 
tribe and deputes active ones on particular missions to rob and steal, 
to commit dacoities, and when accidents happen it makes consequen- 
tial arrangements according to the needs and requirements of the 
families rendered destitute. My informant,, Kallant of Moradabad, 
himself a frequent inmate of jails, admitted that his family was pro- 
perly looked after during his absence and that his was not a special 
case. The disposal of the booty is also the concern of the panchayat 
which distributes the sale proceeds according to plan; the com- 
missions are fixed and are appropriated by the parties without any 
heart burning., as they say. It is not always that all thefts and 
robberies are commissioned by the panchayat', the latter would keep a 
record of those which they finance and the obligations of the 
panchayat are clearly understood by those who engage in crime. Even 
when a man is arrested for crime and cannot see to the disposal of 
the booty cleared by his comrades., the panchayat apportions his 
rightful share and gives it to his wife or dependants. All expenses 
of litigations are shared by the members of gangs who contribute to 
a permanent fund worked by the panchayat and if the fund cannot 
stand the drain on it,, as happens very often., the gang has to fill its 
coffers by fresh expeditions in crime. 

The panchayat has its "Gestapo", a very efficient espionage 
system manned usually by women. Wives often are seen to keep 
watch over their husbands and have to suffer indignities. When 
their husbands confess to crimes or turn approvers, information 
is supplied to the men engaged in crime through their wives, who 



THE CRIMINAL TRIBES $05 

wander about in the garb of poor women beggars who are not suspect- 
ed by the police. 

^Training of boys and girls in crime is carefully planned and 
imparted through concrete channels. The boys and girls are 
taken by their mothers to shops and markets and are asked to 
watch them steel and pilfer. When the boys begin their experiments, 
the mother is always present in the neighbourhood and immediately 
any of them is caught in t 4 he act, the mother rushes to the scene and 
begins to beat the boy mercilessly which excites the sympathy of 
the crowd and softens the heart of the person, the victim of theft. 
The boy is taken home and is instructed in the art by more experienced 
hands. When a leader of a gang is in danger of being arrested or the 
whole gang is traced by the police, the usual subterfuge for the tribe 
is to make a few people turn approvers who implicate young persons 
or juveniles, so that even if they are found guilty and sentenced by 
the court, the punishment would be less severe in consideration of 
their tender age. Should any of the members of a gang turn 
approver on his own account, the gang would arrange for the 
maximum punishment and members are commissioned even to kill 
him if necessary. r 

' Ordinarily a young man is not welcome as a bridegroom unless 
he has proved his skill in the profession of thieving and crime, and a 
certificate of proficiency, though always verbal, must be secured 
by the young man desirous of marriage in the tribe. Two reasons 
are said to have prompted this customary behaviour; the reluctance of 
parents to part with their daughters who may not live with them and 
the weakening of tribal strength by transference of daughters 
others who would not care to live their life. There is usually at 
shortage of women in criminal tribes and this is perhaps a solid excuse 
for such practice. v 

In our investigations among the Doms and Kanjars we found 
a few families extremely destitute and living on charity. Such 
poverty was incompatible with the physical resources of the family 
as there were able bodied men and women who could ceainly earn 
their living by labour or by following their traditional profession. 
But on inquiry we learnt how the families have been branded for 



206 f HE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE BRIBES 

treachery and incompetence and some of the families have been stig- 
matised for the sins of their great-grand-father or ancestors of seventh 
remove even. 

Well-to-do householder is insured against burglary and theft, 
but the burglars and thieves also need to insure themselves against 
emergency. Risks to their life and families are greater than those 
involved even in modern warfare, and as such it is the duty of the 
'criminal' ponchayat to provide for such emergency. Every tribe has 
its scheme of crime insurance,, and the provisions are carefully applied 
to secure families against incapacity and destitution. 

The Sansiyas provide for injury or death in action, i.e., in the act 
of robbery or theft, as follows : If the person who meets with death 
is the only earning member of his family, the wife and children 
would receive Rs. 10 to Rs. 15 per month till the eldest son is able to 
take to his father's profession. If the man injures his skull, so that 
he cannot carry on his normal routine life, the panchayat has to pay 
him Rs. 200. If the ear is damaged or cut off, Rs. 30 must be paid to 
the man; for an eye the compensation provided is Rs. 60 ; for the 
incisor Rs. 10 each;<\ for a leg Rs. 100 to Rs. 150; a finger would bring 
in Rs. 5 or less according to the importance of the finger, e.g., a thumb 
is considered more important and as sucli fetches Rs. 5. If the 
nose is chopped off the man gets Rs. 50; impotency due to damage to 
testicles or the paring of the male organ entitles the man to receive 
Rs. 250 to Rs. 300. If a member of the gang is responsible for such 
offence, he has to pay the above amount as fine to the panchayat who 
compensate the injured person. If all the chest ribs are broken in 
action Rs. 450 are paid to the person concerned, but as it is likely 
that the man would die from the injury another Rs. 50 is paid to his 
heir over and above the amount already provided for. A child left 
by a woman undergoing a term of imprisonment is cared for by the 
gang. If it dies the mother on her return is entitled to Rs. 60. A 
pregnant woman, if hurt in action and the child in the womb succumbs 
to the injury, is compensated according to a schedule the 
amount of compensation increasing with the age of the foetus 
so that it is proportional to the danger to life of the woman 
carrying it. 



THE CRIMINAL TRIBES 207 

The Bhatus pay Rs. 60 to the mother if she loses her child in 
action at 9 months or later, Rs. 40 if she loses it in the 5th month; 
miscarriage in earlier stages entitles her to Rs. 10 to Rs. 30, The 
Karwals provide heavier compensation for the loss of children, if 
they happen to succumb to injury after surviving an attack of 
small-pox. 

From the schedule of provision given above, which varies in 
details and amount from tribe to tribe, even from gang to gang, it 
appears that the compensation fund at the disposal of the gang or its 
leader must be sufficiently large. There is no doubt a fund to meet 
the costs of this insurance scheme, but it is usually met from 
the booty captured by the gang from time to time to which 
individuals eligible to receive compensation have contributed. 
A certain percentage of the booty is reserved as quota to its 
fund, and when money is required, the gang undertakes fresh adven- 
tures. 

' Old hands among the criminal tribes, who are not actively 
participating in the tribal profession now, have stated on oath how 
they distributed the booty gained in their professional enterprises. 
Before the gang sets out for any expedition, the tribal deities are pro- 
pitiated and at least 5 p.c. of the amount they bring in is earmarked 
for pujaS The Brahmin who officiates in this puja receives 1 to 2 p.c.; 
the lower castes, such as Doms, Dosadh, the Dhobi and the scavenger 
receive about 2 p.c.; the police gets about 5 p.c. how they do not 
disclose and the village zemindar I was told is paid in cash and kind 
for assistance if rendered to them as mediators between them and the 
police or as sleeping partners to such enterprises. About 10 p.c. 
is kept by the panchayat for incidental expenses and as contributions 
to the tribal fund. The remaining amount is shared by the members 
of the gang who actively participate in the act. Even dogs are not 
forgotten. The dogs owned by gangs, their donkeys and mules, 
even fowls and pigeons, are 'functional' in the sense that they 
fulfil important roles in crime politics. Dogs are particularly 
trained to sense the police or intelligence staff in civil dress and 
sometimes they are known to carry information from gang to 
gang. ' 



208 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

A careful account of the various criminal tribes, their methods 
of training and recruitment, their solidarity and skill, their strength 
and weakness, their tribal panchayat and how it controls their acti- 
vities will be welcome not only to the criminologist but also to the 
layman and a monograph detailing all this information is under 
compilation by the author.* 



TRIBAL ECONOMY AND SOCIAL VIGILANCE 

TRIBAL social economy depends on a number of factors. A 
tribe must adapt itself to the area it inhabits. It must develop 
a relation of interdependence with the fauna and flora of the 
habitat. Its success depends on its ability to live enjoying robust 
health, acquiring strength, in evolving an adjustment to the forces 
of environment so that its leisure born of security may provide scope 
for progress. Such is the result of regional adaptation. A tribe 
must be able to develop an organisation of its entire group mind 
and group behaviour through which efforts of individuals may be 
properly channelled and their maximum success assured. The 
pattern of organisation whether it should be hierarchical or de- 
mocratic is not very important. It is the efficiency with which it 
regulates individual behaviour, that determines the quality of 
tribal economy, and survival of the tribe. 

Urgent needs of adjustment may compel a tribe to choose 
a wrong plan of conduct which proves deleterious in the long 
run. The Korwas have hit on a famine code. It is largely 
built on their selection of roots and berries some of which neither 
contain sufficient nutritive value nor provide the necessary amount 
of calories for a vigorous life in its wild setting. The poisonous 
roots and herbs which they cure for food may have an adverse 
effect on their reproductive system. They may account for their 
chronic illness, diarrhoea and stomatities and other nutritional 
maladjustments. The Gonds of the Central Provinces, the Oraons 
of Chota-Nagpur have the institution of youth-house which regulates 
sex life of the village and keeps an efficient control over the morals of 
the village youth. The Muria youth -house called Gotul even res- 
tricts the movement of girls within the village and effectively taboo 
inter-tribal intrigues thus ensuring tribal endogamy. Lessons in 
tribal etiquette and discipline, are inculcated through the Gotul. 
Its traditional organisation with a hierarchy of officers and an 
obligatory code of conduct have preserved tribal integrity when 
disorganisation consequent upon contacts have threatened the life 

and morals of the tribe. 

27 



210 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

The annual festivals and ceremonial rituals in most of the 
tribes depend on the spontaneous response of the people to what tradi- 
tion prescribes. For,, even when they know today that they can 
violate the established usages and customary rites with impunity, 
the requirements of tribal solidarity and ordered existence demand 
their willing compliance with approved patterns of behaviour. The 
head-hunting of the Nagas and the elaborate rites of ministration 
to the souls of the deceased chiefs among the Kukis do not merely 
add thrill to the occasions but also have great survival value. For 
much of their economic success is believed to depend on the efficacy 
of these rites and the manner and mode of rendition of spells and 
prayers connected with them. The Tatra of the Oraons in Chota- 
Nagpur which brings together the various totemic clans of the 
tribe for common participation in ceremonial worship and thanks- 
giving to the host of spirits 'and nature powers where each totem 
clan intoxicated with the spirit of tribal manhood runs with orna- 
mented standards to represent the group in the comity of the 
tribe., is a wonderful example of group organization and tribal com- 
petence. The dances and feats of skill that distinguish particular 
clans on such occasion while they raise the prestige and add to the 
vanity of the group also provide examples to others who are encour- 
aged to emulate their colleagues, thus developing a 'race for race 
building', a struggle to forge ahead of others in tribal esteem and 
effectiveness. 

Every tribe has its marital code and its conception of quality, 
competence or incompetence. An effective group organisation 
upholds the values of tribal life, propagates ideas about the sanctity 
of marital life and obligations, secures the status of children born 
within or outside wedlock and even prescribes the limits of marital 
freedom and sexual morality. Occasionally a disparity in the 
proportion of the sexes, or economic distress may cause tribal dis- 
organisation. New forms of selection of mate may be adopted 
in conformity with the changed situation. But so long as the 
group organisation remains strong and effective, sex and marriage 
are regulated in the traditional and socially approved manner. 
Tribal life is also regulated by a system of taboos and code of conduct 



TRIBAL ECONOMY AND SOCIAL VIGILANCE 211 

whose sanctity may be derived from the inherent strength of the 
tabooed object or person, or from gods and spirits whose responses 
are expressed in frowns and favours. 

When the equipments of man for the struggle of life were 
meagre, inefficient and rudely designed his success depended on the 
co-operation and sympathy of his fellowmen, and naturally the group 
exercised tremendous influence on his life and activities. His 
taboos were those which protected the group, aided it in times of 
crisis and prevented him from activities likely to disturb group 
adjustments. As his horizon widened and social needs multiplied 
no longer the taboos were sufficient to protect his interests and 
violation of taboos was only a necessary sequel to his successful 
adaptation. The taboos which were automatically observed in 
primitive societies had to be reinforced by social prescriptions 
upheld by the fiat of the tribal authority vested in the panchayat. 
Social progress, therefore, produces a complicated system of morality 
and conduct whose sanction is derived first from the taboos, 
then from the gods who are invoked to enforce obedience to tradi- 
tional code of conduct, customs and prohibitions, and lastly from 
the tribal group who directs individual behaviour in the interests 
of tribal solidarity and concord. Among most of the tribes today, 
taboos have lost their inherent power for good or evil; even the fear 
of divine retribution is not enough to prompt compliance. It now 
rests with the tribal elders to enforce traditional obligations. While 
public life may not be regulated by taboos, gods and group mores 
but by the authority of the tribal society, private life still moves 
round group sentiments and collective living linking personal and 
social morality. 

A general routine of life has therefore been forced on the 
tribal society by the various factors outlined above. All these 
constitute one single life pattern. An acquaintance with tribal life, 
its comforts and discomforts, customs and practices makes it 
difficult to view it piecemeal, for these are sure to lose their meaning 
and significance dissociated from their social contexts. For 
example, to interfere with any of the important features of tribal 
culture is to compel the tribe, individually and collectively to begin 



212 THE FORTUNES OF PRlMlflVE 

anew,, to create another culture scheme in the setting of men and 
things that may be entirely strange and apparently chaotic. Unless 
the tribal society readjusts itself, adapts itse x lf to changed conditions 
in one or more of the several ways: (1) by gradual substitution, 
as for example, by religious conversion in the case of the Sonthal and 
the Munda of Chota-Nagpur, who were faced with wholesale 
exploitation and expropriation of their rights to land by the alien 
landlords, (2j by a process of acculturation, by slowly absorbing 
culture traits from their neighoars, (3) by injecting into their culture 
customs and institutions^ new dress and newer luxuries or new mode 
of life, the new situation brought about by contacts with civilisa- 
tion for example, is likely to interpose into the general scheme of 
primitive life and routine producing a slow but sure deterioration. 
Again a tribe may develop a sort of cultural 'nomadism' which 
disintegrates traditional beliefs and practices and substitutes 
opportunism for stability, expediency for social values. 

In some tribes, particularly in parts of Chota-Nagpur female 

labour is abundant and men often remain at home and send their 

womenfolk to work for the family, and are not ashamed of living 

on the income of their wives. The free and unfettered life of the 

women has encouraged the latter to seek employment of various 

kinds and girls that have some schooling in Mission schools are being 

recruited for clerical jobs, while the majority of the available women 

work for wages in the town or in military construction and supply. 

In one district, for example, which is today the headquarters of 

the Eastern Command large number of troops of the allied armies 

.are now kept for training and movements. Arid treeless plains 

and deep forest thicknesses with meandering streams which 

harboured countless tribes, today are being littered with tents and 

encampments which are humming with life. The primitive tribes 

who nestled in comfort in these parts have now come in contact 

with men and machines and are being forced to come out of their 

seclusion. Villages in the neighbourhood of army encampments 

are supplying labour* to the latter and the economic transition in 

the tribal area cannot be measured merely in terms of the amount 

of money daily distributed among the tribal labour. 



TRIBAL ECONOMY AND SOCIAL VIGILANCE 

The village dormitory (youth-house) so long provided a 
centre of tribal schooling; the captain of the dormitory was an in- 
fluential person who looked after the morals of the boys and the 
elderly duenna incharge of the maidens' hut superintended the 
girls.' The compulsory affiliation of all the tribal girls and boys 
to the village dormitory indirectly put a stop to clandestine 
intrigues -with people of alien castes and creed and tribal endogamy 
was considered a sacred obligation by the tribal youth. 

The need for labour under new conditions has disintegrated 
many of the indigenous institutions in tribal culture and the 
dormitory and the tribal elders no longer prove effective to control 
the movements of the tribal youth. "Woe to the army" declared 
an old patriarch of a village, "our girls are gone, they do not return 
home at night and boys pine for them without hope." "What do 
you need father", said a young maiden in my presence "I shall 
fetch you cloth and sweets, but please do not be peevish". Mothers 
wait for their daughters' return, but days and nights pass, no news 
of them is heard. One day, the lorry stops, a giggle is heaid, they 
get down assisted by their employers or their men and they enter 
home with presents, sweets, money and trinkets which silence 
criticism. 

The Korwas, I have described above, have been cut off from 
their natural sources of food supply and recreation. They are 
surrounded on all sides by a stratified society whose influence has 
permeated every aspect of tribal life and culture. If they are to 
survive, they need a specific adjustment to each stratum of the 
hierarchy. The old taboos are meaningless to them; they fail to 
protect their life and property, ' their songs and laughter'; they fail 
to prevent their exploitation by others. At the same time they have 
no power to augment their produce, increase their progeny, aid 
them in their struggle for existence. Even dances have fallen into 
disuse; they are no longer required to aid the hunter and cause 
multiplication of gam^ in the forests. As they come in contact with 
more and more of the groups their adjustment narrows down, 
opportunities diminish and new taboos are introduced to hedge 
them from all sides. They lose their faith in tried and trrditicnal 



214 tlt FORTUNES Otf PflUAtrftVE 

customs and practices. They fail to adopt those of their new 
neighbours. They are divorced from their old ways of life; they 
struggle with new adjustments which they fail to secure, and thus 
they find themselves alien to both, the old and the new setting of 
life. Loss of ambition has therefore set in indicating a social 
neurosis; there is a loss of fertility as well reflected in high inci- 
dence of sterility and dysgenic reproduction. Anxiety symptoms are 
manifest resulting in a new accent on forces of evil, in witchcraft 
and sorcery, in maleficent spirits and avenging godheads. 

In contrast to the Korwas, the Tharus afford an adaptive 
culture. The dominant position of woman has done much to 
effect an adjustment with the changed environment in which the 
Tharus find themselves. This dominance may be a survival of a 
matriarchal matrix of culture, or it may have resulted from a 
superiority complex which the Tharu traditions uphold, probably 
the former, as we have found no scientific basis for Rajput origin 
of Tharu women. Whatever be the cause of the peculiar status of 
women in Tharu society, the inferior role of men, their subservience 
to woni*n, the ownership of property by women, all have contributed 
to suppress the scope of male initiative. While the anxiety of the 
women to maintain their hold on society, the rights which they 
have been enjoying and freedom they have learnt to value have 
encouraged women to design and practise witchcraft, an art which 
is believed to have reached sufficient status in skill and technique. 

The Tharu women are dreaded for their magic and the 
neighbouring castes and communities avoid them as far as they 
possibly can. Their .hold on their own menfolk which has become 
proverbial in the Tharu country has produced a sort of uneasiness 
among women of other castes and jealously the latter guard their 
husbands from contacts with the Tharu women. The magic of 
the Tharu women has, therefore, shielded them from their neigh- 
bours, \\hile their menfolk have become domesticated and sub- 
servient both aiding the adjustment of the Tharus to their habitat. 
Alien traits have no doubt permeated the Tharu society through 
contacts but the shyness of the alien people in their dealings with 
the Tharus has effectively reduced the intensity of their impact 



TRIBAL ECONOMY AND SOCIAL VIGILANCE 215 

on Tharu culture, and changes that have slowly and gradually 
infiltrated into Tharu culture, have been consciously adopted 
through the initiative of women. While the Korwas have been 
forced by contacts into isolation, the Tharus have forced isolation 
on others. The magic of the Cheros and other tribes has produced 
a mortal dread among the Korwas, the magic of the Tharus has 
raised horror in the minds of their neighbours who shun their 
contacts though economic obligations and need for reciprocity bring 
them very much together. 

TheKhasas are a conservative people who have developed an 
elaborate social organisation on a feudal basis with the thokdar or 
the sadar sayana as the chief of a number of villages each of which is 
presided over by a lesser chief usually called the sayana. The Khasas 
are immigrants into their present domicile and appear to have 
superimposed their culture on a tribal matrix and as among the 
Oraons of the Ghota-Nagpur plateau, who are immigrants into the 
Munda country in comparatively recent times and have therefore 
left the duty of propitiating the village spirits and clan deities to 
the Mundas, in every Khasa village there is a tribal functionary 
belonging to a low caste who assists the village headman and 
assumes the role of leader in the absence of the latter. He is 
known as part and is recognised by the administration though 
the latter has no voice in his appointment. His remuneration 
consists of dadwar voluntarily contributed by the villagers. What- 
ever antecedents the Khasas may claim today their occupation of 
the cis-Himalayan region was not effected without violence, 
plunder and loot. The thokdars, for example, were leaders of 
hordes, who wielded great influence over the people and the ease and 
suddenness with which they could combine, proved to be a menace 
to the administration and various concessions had to be agreed 
from time to. time by the latter to keep them peaceful and law- 
abiding. In Rawain, the confederacy of thokdar s once decided to 
leave the state as a protest against the state's interference with their 
rights, and persuasion and concession were necessary to keep them 
back from wholesale migration into the neighbouring British district. 

While the thokdars ruled over their people, they had to 



216 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

organise defence against barbarous hordes consisting of Sikhs, 
Pathans and others who invaded their security from time to time 
and their anxiety to protect their property and possessions is 
manifest even in their indegenous domestic architecture. For 
example., every house has one big entrance, a door made of a single 
plank curved out of the trunk of a big pine or Deodar tree, with 
an iron chain to which is fastened a big lock providing security to 
the inmates. The houses are constructed in two or more storeys, like 
vertical columns with no projections or balcony except in thJfrtop- 
most storey where the balcony was perhaps used for spying from a 
distance. The whole house was secured by a single entrance which 
once shut from within was difficult to break open, the balcony pro- 
viding storage for stones and sticks which could be thrown at the 
invaders without much risk to the inmates. 

The necessity of organised defence, maintained the social 
hierarchy among the Khasas and in course of time the thokdars 
secured to themselves, a number of privileges which were by custom 
conceded by the people. Every family that owed allegiance to 
the thokdar was represented by the seniormost male member whose 
influence was greatly exaggerated though his power was derivatively 
acquired. Even the partition of property was uneconomic; the 
eldest brother who is necessarily the head of the joint family, was by 
custom allowed a lion's share in the ancestral property. The 
younger members were placed under complete control of the head 
of the family and as they owed no independent source of income 
they were even debarred from marrying on their own account. 
The custom of fraternal polyandry obviated such need as the elder 
brother's wife was also the joint wife of all the brothers. Even 
today when a younger brother wants to marry and settle down 
independently of the joint family, the eldest brother goes through 
the ceremony of marriage and the younger brother merely catches 
the little finger of the former when he circumambulates the marriage 
pole. While economic conditions force joint living in these parts, 
the excessive cold climate of the hills encourages lavish use of liquor 
and feasts, festivities, drum and drink develop cordiality and 
maintain the solidarity of Khasa life. 



tRIJBAL ECONOMY AND SOCIAL VIGILANCE 

The feudal structure of the Khasa society, the hardship of 
life experienced in the inhospitable mountains or in the ravinous 
valleys, the scarcity of women and the instability of domestic life 
engendered by the laxity of the marital code, all have produced a 
fatalistic trend of mind among the Khasas so that superstitious 
beliefs about life and the environment they live in, find ready recep- 
tion among them. While the magic of the Tharu women have contri- 
buted to the adaptation of the Tharus, the magic of other tribes 
have forced the Korwas into seclusion, the superstitious beliefs and 
traditional rites and rituals have protected the Khasas from dis- 
integration and thus in spite of cultural changes in the neighbourhood 
the Khasas have clung to their polyandry and to their marital 
code and have maintained their feudal rights and obligations. 

The Khasa culture has not been greatly influenced by con- 
tacts. Inaccessibility and remoteness of their country have con- 
trolled immigration. The demand for joint labour within the 
village and the marital code of the Khasas have effectively stiffled 
the desire for adventure and emigration. A Khasa woman must 
be looked after by a group of brothers who own her as their common 
wife While there is no exclusive marital right of any brother 
over the common wife, the latter owns the rights to demand that 
her sexual needs should be catered to as l6ng as she remains in her 
husband's house. It is inconceivable for a Khasa wife to live apart 
from her husband in the latter's village and any suggestion to do 
so meets with loud protest. Travellers in the Khasa country will 
vouchsafe how the women sympathise with their wives left behind. 
Once we put the question to them, what were they going to do, if 
they need be left behind. The answer was equally straight, they 
would certainly sleep with men of their choice. 'Marriage among 
the Khasas has its obligations', interpolated an elderly wife in the 
Sajjar village in Jaunsar Bawar, 'and food, clothing, shelter and 
ornaments do not exhaust them'. The husbands must fulfil their 
obligation of mating which requires, as they will tell you, their 
constant presence in the house. This is why a polyandrous family 
of three or four brothers find it possible to move out by arrangement. 
Another fact that strikes a visitor to the Khasa country is the freedom 



218 tHE FORTUNES otf PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

with which sex is discussed in public; father, brothers and sons 
freely take part in amorous gossip in presence of others. Mothers 
intervene in sex disputes between their son and his wife and the 
father is often heard to give tips to son in matters which could 
never form the subject matter of discussion between them in our 
society. There appears to be complete lack of sex repression and 
men and women find opportunity to release their tension in sex life 
as often as it is necessary. Although customary marital code 
prescribes the limits of sexual practice within the fraternal tic, the 
eldest brother enjoying some sort of monopoly over the wife so long 
as he is in the house, the other brothers do get their share of sexual 
experience conveniently scheduled by the obliging wife or wives, 
while extra marital licence corrects any maladjustment in sex life. 

There is hardly any family in Jaunsar Bawar that maintains 
any privacy in sex matters. Children, as soon as they learn to see 
things and understand them, can tell you all that happens between 
their parents, a situation perhaps unique in the marital code of 
any cultured people. This lack of repression perhaps accounts for 
their proverbial gay disposition and even the frowns of nature or her 
niggardliness have not been able to 'rob them of their laughter'. 
But clouds do arise, they precipitate or are blown away, the 
Khasas live in dread of mysterious forces of the evil, have developed 
an elaborate code of rites and rituals, of prayers and propitiation 
and a legion of superstitions all meant to secure their precarious food 
supply, their hard life of toil, and their joint family. Such is the 
pattern of Khasa life as we see today, and as we may see in decades 
to come, for new customs, and practices do not take easy root, nor 
are they anxious to learn and emulate others, however significant 
their traits of culture may appear to them. 

The patterns of tribal culture we have described above reveal 
the interlacing of beliefs and customs in tribal society. The con- 
tents of culture can be grouped into spheres of social life. The 
dominance of one sphere, may determine the attitude of a group 
to its life and its mores, though the various spheres together con- 
stitute the scheme of life and a harmony and balance between them 
are particularly essential for survival. The ethos of a culture may 



TRIBAL ECONOMY AND SOCIAL VIGILANCE 219 

be overweighed by religion, of another by overemphasis on the 
economic life,, of a third by a fatalistic trend of thought and conse- 
quent apathy and indifference to life. Mere economic opportu- 
nities and their exploitation have not secured the stability of a 
culture. The Munda speaking tribes of the Ranchi district and the 
Oraons are financially much better off today; the cheap money they 
are earning in consequence of war economics has enabled them to 
spend more and to add to their comforts. Yet the disintegration of 
their culture has reached alarming proportions; even the family 
solidarity is in jeopardy. The entire cultural outlook has been 
passing through a transition, their values are changing and new 
problems are being created which will help or hinder their race for 
survival. Under ordinary circumstances even where there are 
contacts between two or more cultures,, the configuration of each 
does not change much. It is more or less abiding or stable. But 
when the impacts are violent between a dominant culture and a 
decadent one the latter may be largely reactivated by new needs 
and emotional appeals. The decadent culture can hardly stem 
the advance of ideas, and can only secure survival by surrendering 
their values and even identifying completely with the dominant 
culture. Such identification, however, is taking place in some 
areas in India and the effect on their patterns of life and living 
requires to be assessed before a final verdict is pronounced. 

Beliefs and customs constitute the major elements of a 
culture. These may be grouped as cortical and subcortical. The 
difference between one set of beliefs and another from the tribal 
point of view,, rests on the quality of vividness or the degree of 
illumination received by them from the society possessing those 
beliefs and customs. Some beliefs are dominant, they are manifest 
in live customs and rites, others ai*e not seriously regarded so they 
languish and the customs which spring from such beliefs also lose 
in intensity and in vividness. It is possible to describe these as 
cortical and subcortical beliefs and customs on the evidence of 
dominance or decadence of such beliefs and customary behaviour. 
The cortical beliefs are associated with cortical or conscious cus- 
toms, the subcortical ones lower the guidance-giving value pf 



220 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

customs and practices till the latter gradually disappear from the 
society. So long as beliefs and customs remain cortical and 
dominant they colour and shape the attitude of the society to custom- 
ary conduct, morality and law. Less dominant, consequently 
less vivid beliefs and rites may become associated with them till 
the whole may grow into a complex culture pattern. The first 
sign of disintegration of beliefs and customs is a detachment of 
functions of the less vivid ones, the gradual dropping off of those of 
them which have accreted to the original cortical beliefs and 
customs. Beliefs and customs exist and persist because they are 
parts of the apparatus by which a society maintains itself, its 
existence order and spontaneity. 

The Koltas in Jaunsar Bawar are the traditional hewers of 
wood and drawers of water. They are bought and sold and are 
the agricultural serfs of the cis -Himalayan region. Mere racial 
difference cannot explain the hard lot of the Koltas, as it does not 
in other parts of the country. The Koltas are mortgaged for life 
for debts they owe to zemindars; these grow in volume, added to 
and passed on to generation after generation, till the octopus of 
indebtedness kills every semblance of liberty or free life. But can 
the Kolta repudiate his obligations? Can he deny, his Mahajan, his 
master and free himself. Does he leave his master, whose bond- 
man he is by transferring himself to other centres where he can 
even earn better wages? The answer is NO. He dares not risk it, 
for does he not see every year how their gods, the sun and the 
moon, are hounded by their creditors, resulting in partial or total 
eclipses? These gods borrowed money from the Doms, and 
repudiated the debts; they have been cursed with leprosy, for the 
spots on their face are marks of this foul disease and every year the 
Doms hound them. The pious householder has to expiate for the 
sins of their gods by offering alms to the Brahmins. Such beliefs 
about eclipse are universal among all tribal people. How they 
originated may be difficult to trace today but their functions are 
socially significant. Debts are never disowned for fear of consequences 
people would abhor. Even the thought of repudiation is enough 
to depress a Kolta, he need not even be told that the gods are 



TRIBAL ECONOMY AND SOCIAL VIGILANCE 221 

displeased^ even if he hears from his master, his creditor, the size 
of his debt he tries to liquidate it by service but usually ends in 
transferring the whole of it and more to his descendant and heir. 
In his case the beliefs about the consequences of repudiation are 
cortical, vivid and constantly illuminated before him. 

Such, however, is not the case with the Rajput or the Brah- 
min, their masters whom the Koltas live for. Cases of repudiation 
are frequently decided by visiting the temple of Mahasu, at Hanoi, 
for example, where the creditor accuses the debtor who is obliged 
to place the money before the God to be taken by the creditor in 
presence of the God, so that if there is any foul play, the person 
will suffer consequences as the God would direct, leprosy and death 
usually, incapacity and destitution if the offence is not of a 
grievous nature. Even gods are not enough to secure compliance 
with the customary obligations, such disputes today are dragged to the 
courts of law and the decisions of distant courts are eagerly awaited 
by both the debtor and the creditor, for luck, resourcefulness and 
ignorance are unknown factors which influence decisions in the 
palaces of justice. As in the case of taboo, at first powerful enough 
to avenge itself, gradually losing its innate force, has to be rein- 
forced by divine sanction, by the power of gods and spirits, lastly 
upheld by social prescription of ostracism, the beliefs about the 
sanctity of obligations are first maintained by their vividness, their 
illumination. Gradually the development of personality and 
growth of knowledge diffuse the intensity of beliefs, and their sanction 
is derived from supernatural powers, gods and spirits, and oaths 
and ordeals reinforce obligations socially approved. When these 
fail to elicit compliance with customary conduct, social prescription 
or legal enactment assumes responsibility for conformity to tradi- 
tional pattern of life and all that it stands for. 

At every level of cultural development some sort of social 
security has been worked out by people. The precarious life of 
the hunter has been secured by customs and taboos, preventive, 
productive or protective so that the hunter might not be at the 
mercy of his game. The evolution of agriculture has secured better 
and more efficient control over food supply, releasing people from 



222 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

constant tension of feelings occasioned by food shortage or the 
prospect of starvation. Security was found in the magical devices 
to produce rain, to augment the yield from the fields and the mimic 
dances depicting the processes of agriculture and in the various 
fertility rites practised by the tribal people even today. 

The agricultural practices of primitive people everywhere are 
a pattern of magic,, religion and economics deftly interknit which 
has secured the social life of the hunter-cum-agriculturists, the 
shifting agriculturists and even of the superior farmer who uses 
complex tools and implements. Success in agriculture depends not 
only on the proper distribution of the means of production, on the 
harmonious relations subsisting between the agriculturist and the 
nature powers, spirits and gods believed to preside over its different 
stages, but on innumerable beliefs and customs, positive and negative 
which circumscribe the activities of the farmer yet secure his crops 
and increases their yield. These beliefs and rttes are cortical or 
subcortical as they are associated with the various stages connected 
with the sowing, growth, harvesting and distribution of the products. 
The importance of every phase of agriculture is expressed in the 
degree of sanctity attached to the beliefs and practices associated 
with it. The head hunting of the Nagas, the yatra of the Oraons, 
the Maghe festival of the Hos and the Bedwart of the Khasas are 
important magico-religious institutions which are meant to secure 
tribal society against scarcity of game, diminution of forest products 
and failure of crops. 

The magical practices that were associated with Khond agri- 
culture culminated in the human sacrifice which has now become 
obsolete due to contacts. The Khond beliefs about the efficacy of 
human sacrifice was so strong that they have not yet recovered 
from the effects of 'loss of nerves' resulting from its discontinuance. 
So long as the magical rites were considered potent enough to 
secure them and their food supply against unforeseen calamities, 
diseases, pests and even excessive precipitation, the confidence of 
the Khonds on their methods and techniques was not shaken. 
Even today when the Mundas want rains they ascend the top of 
hills and throw down stones of all sizes and descriptions so that the 



TRIBAL IGONOMV ANI> SOCIAL VIGILAKGE 223 

rumbling of the stones falling would resemble the rumbling of 
thunder and they would expect rains to follow; or else they would 
burn leaves and faggots continuously for days and nights till the 
smoke darkens the sky producing rains as they pour from the 
clouds. The Khonds offered human sacrifice tied to a wooden 
elephant and they would chant hymns and sing songs in presence 
of an admiring and receptive crowd. At a signal from the priest 
the crowd in a delirious fury would rush at the poor victim, tear 
flesh from his body, and dance in ecstasy with the spoil which 
possesses the power of fertilising their fields or securing their food 
supply against supernatural calamities. As the tears roll down the 
cheeks of the man so would rains come, as the blood gushes forth 
from the wounds so also vegetation would sprout, and rains and 
vegetation both were abundant in consequence. The vividness with 
which human sacrifice and all beliefs connected with it were viewed 
by the Khonds could only have one lesson for them and that was the 
sanctity attached to the human sacrifice as an aid to their struggles 
for survival. The human sacrifice or head hunting could not be 
properly set down with other kinds of murder, as it was a form of 
self-abnegation, just c as the sacrifice of a child in the Ganges could 
not be taken as murder for they are essentially desperate phenomena.' 
Sir Henry Head suggests (Aphasia) that the higher centres of the 
nervous system exercise a control over the lower centres in such a way 
that any injury to the former will result in a lack of precision of func- 
tions controlled by the latter. Thus if a higher arc of the spinal cord 
be injured the movements of the legs and toes become less precise 
so that the goal aimed at cannot be reached. This type of control 
of the higher centres over the lower ones is -called by Head as 
vigilance. Vigilance is a general biological function; conscious- 
ness according to Head, stands in the same relation to vigilance as 
the complex purposive reflexes to those of the low level ones. He 
suggests psychical and somatic vigilance for the terms, 'conscious' 
and 'unconscious'. The more differentiated an act the higher the 
degree of vigilance needed and the more easily can it be abolished 
by toxic influences and other conditions unfavourable to physiolo- 
gical activity. Vigilance is lowered and the specific mental aptitudes 



224 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

die out as an electric lamp is extinguished when the voltage falls 
below the necessary level. The centres involved in the automatic 
processes which form an essential part of the conscious act, may 
continue to live on a lower vital level as under the influence of 
chloroform. 

There is thus a hierarchy of vigilance scheme in the nervous 
system. The mind, as Head puts it, exercises the same kind of 
vigilance over the cortical centres as the higher centres do over the 
lower ones. This principle can be applied in all cases of individual 
behaviour. When attention is wavering, movements become in- 
definite. The vigilance scheme that can be called attentional, has 
ceased to control the lower functions. The same thing is true of 
memory. When memory fails the piano player's movements become 
indefinite and less precise. This principle can also be applied on 
a social scale. 

Social behaviour is controlled by certain schemata of ideas 
and theories with respect to the economic pursuits, marital be- 

Head says, "When the spinal cord is divided or so grossly in- 
jured in man that conduction is distroyed, the lower extremities lie 
flaccid and atomic on the bed in any position into which they 
may be placed. The urine is retained, the patient has no power of 
evacuating the bowels, and at first the skin is dry. All deep reflexes 
are abolished, and scratching the sole of the foot may either produce 
no movement of the toes, or one that is feeble downwards. 

Should the injury be acute and the patient young and other- 
wise healthy, particularly if he remains free from crystals, bed-sores 
or fever, the deep reflexes reappear as the period of spinal shock 
passes away. First the ankle-jerk, and then the knee-jerk can be 
obtained, gradually the planter reflex begins to assume a form 
characterised by an upward movement of the great toe. The field 
from which it can be evoked enlarges and finally, in successful cases 
the spinal cord becomes so excitable that stimulation anywhere 
below the level of the lesion may be followed by a characteristic up- 
ward movement of the toes. But this now forms a small portion 
only of the reaction to superficial excitation, ankle, knee and hip 



TRIBAL ECONOMY AND SOCIAL VIGILANCE 225 

haviour, 'food quest' or dress. To take an example,, when the 
ideas and feelings, aesthetic, religious or merely habitual, break- 
down through an impact of other notions,, the dress of the people 
appear to be a strange medley. There may be a tie and a hat, with- 
out the other garments matching with them. People may eat 
bacon without the poached egg. A primitive religion may be 
practised in a Christian Church. Thus in peoples among whom 
traditional ideas hold sway, the conduct appears to be not consis- 
tent with one another, but also possessing certain barbarous beauty 
of its own. Mixture of cultures breaks down the vigilance scheme 
which we may conveniently call social vigilance, and make behaviour 
less precise, less coherent and less useful. 

Social vigilance in this sense is the result of a long practice 
of set habits, beliefs and sentiments that guide the normal life of a 
tribe or social group. Such coalescence occurs by a process of 

are flexed and the foot is withdrawn from the stimulus applied to 
the . sole, Not infrequently the abdominal wall is thrown into 
contraction and every flexor muscle below the lesion may participate 
in an energetic spasmodic movement. Stimulation of a small area 
on the foot has evoked a widespread response from the whole 

extent of the spinal cord below the lesion (Riddoch, G. 119). 
****** 

These observations on man are in complete agreement with 
the animal experiments of Sherrington (Sherrington, C. S.) 
and his pupils. Suppose, for instance, that the spinal cord of a cat 
has been transected in the region of the medula oblongata; twenty 
minutes later prick the hind paw with a pin and no general reflex 
results, but the toes make an opening movement. Gradually_, the 
response becomes more widespread, until the whole of the limb 
may be thrown into flexion and the opposite one extended by a 
stimulus of the same nature and intensity. Not only has the motor 
response become brisker and more intensive, but the skin area from 
which it can be evoked has greatly increased. Pinching the super- 
ficial structures over any part of the limb may now cause flexion, 
accompanied by extension of the opposite extremity. 



226 THE FORTUNES OF PRIMITIVE TRIBES 

use and disuse. The beliefs and sentiments that are not in con- 
formity with the urgent needs of adaptation are discarded at least 
for the time being and are replaced by new ones. If the system of 
thoughts and sentiments prove useful for a long time., they continue 
to guide group life. When they are inadequate they are modified 
and new vigilance schema take their place. The criminal tribes, 
most of them start on their criminal expedition after the ceremonial 
worship and propitiation of their tribal gods particularly the goddess 
Kali or Kalka, the mother goddess,, who is believed to protect their 
interests. This goddess is worshipped during the dark half of every 
month usually on the new moon night which is considered very 
auspicious as the darkness of the night provides the necessary cover 
to their planned crimes. The midnight worship of this goddess is 
a complex pattern of rites and rituals^ beliefs and practices some 
of which are indigenous,, others borrowed from alien cultures. 
The cult is associated with wine,, sacrifices, inordinate sex license 
and revelry, dances, spirit possession, ecstasy, divination, priest- 
craft, distribution of booty, even the offer of human blood 
if it can stealthily be secured. The direction of crime, its 
execution the victims of crime are usually planned and chosen in 
an atmosphere of temporary stimulation so that the cult of the 
Kali exercises a tremendous influence in crime culture. If the 
specific mental attitudes which favour the survival of such rites and 
practices die out or the beliefs regarding the sanctity of such religious 
worship are disintegrated anyhow., the vividness or illumination, 
the voltage, as it were, will fall below the necessary level and crime 
will lose its religious sanction and tribal mores and the crime code 
of the criminal tribes will automatically seek a new vigilance 
schema. Whether the latter would be an improvement on the for- 
mer is not very important as the needs of ordered life must prescribe 
new expedients which will naturally be divorced from their habitual 
pattern of crime politics, 

The polyandry of the Khasas derives its sanction from the 
joint family life necessary under conditions of hill economy. A 
matriarchal matrix might have secured the institution to the 
Jyhasas, but its continuance under present conditions is possible 



TRIBAL ECONOMY AND SOCIAL VIGILANCE 227 

because of the cortical beliefs connected with joint family. The 
laws of inheritance, the customary form of marriage, the conven- 
tional fatherhood, the desire for family solidarity, the double 
standard of morality recognised by the Khasas, all have contributed 
to the survival of joint family life and polyandry is a convenient 
form of marital adjustment in the cis-Himalayan region. Each of 
the elements detailed above that constitute the institution may have 
an independent origin but may be gradually integrated into the 
pattern of culture. Each, however, exercises some amount of control 
so that when disintegration of the institution sets in, each consti- 
tuent element functions independently and exercises partial vigilance. 
Should the joint family disintegrate, should the customary laws of 
partition which secure the joint family be replaced by an individual- 
ised legal code regarding property, the institution of polyandry will 
sink to the subliminal level, or may eventually disappear from the 
Khasa society, as it has disappeared in neighbouring areas. Political 
interests may aid an institution to survive as for example the reel 
marriage in the Simla states which pours in large sums of money 
in the form of tax to the state coffers. 

Culture, primitive or advanced, from this point of view is a 
vigilance schema built out of conscious and unconscious factors. 
When such schema forms a well-knit pattern so that we may 
not interfere with any aspect without interfering with the system 
as a whole, we call it a unitary culture pattern. When, however, 
we have several culture schema instead of one, some with respect 
to marriage, some with respect to food, others with the various 
material needs and requirements, we have a heterogeneous system. 
We should suspect in these cases a long process of trial and error, 
a process of building and rebuilding of vigilance. A unitary vigi- 
lance schema implicates cither a stereotyped set of factors or the 
operation of a higher conscious and rational factor. Thus both the 
'natural' and 'cultural' peoples may have a unitary vigilance 
schema. It is only among the peoples in the transitional stage who 
exhibit a heterogeneous vigilance schema. A detailed discussion 
on social vigilance is reserved for a later publication to follow. 



REFERENCES 

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Biddulph Tribes of Hindoo Koosh. 

Briffault, R. The Mothers. Vol. I. p. 669. 

Boyd, W. C. Tabulae Biological XVII, 113-240 (1939). 

Buchanon, Eastern India, Vol. I. 

Benedict Ruth Patterns of Culture. 

Census Reports, 1931, Vol. I, Pts. I, II, III. 

Census Reports, 1941 Tables. 

Census Reports, 1931, U.P. 

District Gazetteer of Mirzapur. 

District Gazetteer, Nairn Tal. 

District Gazetteer of Dehra Dun. 

Westermarck E. A Short History of Marriage, pp. 245-255. 

District Gazetteer, Kangra. 

Ethnology of Bengal Col. Dalton. 

Guha, B. S. The Racial Composition of the Hindu Kush Tribes, Proc. 25th Indian Sc, 

Con. 1938 pp. 247-266. 
Fisher, R. A. The Coefficient of Racial Likeness and the Future of Craniometry. 

J.R.A.I. Vol. LXVI, January-June, 1936. 
Freud S. Totem and Taboo. 

Head, Sir Henry Aphasia and Kindred Disorders of Speech. 
Hodson, T. C. Primitive Culture of India. 
Hutton, J. H. The Angami Nagas. 
Imperial Gazetteer, Vol. IV. 
Lowie, R. Primitive Society. 
MacFarlane, E. W. E. Blood Group Distribution in India with Special Reference to 

Bengal J. of Genetics, 36; 1938, pp. 225-227. 
Malone and Lahiri The Distribution of Blood Groups in certain Races and Castes in 

India, Ind. J. Med. Research XVI, 963-868 (1929). 
Majumdar, D. N. Race and Adaptability J.A.S.B. (1929). 

Disease, Death and Divination in certain Primitive Societies in India, Man in 
India, Vol. XIII, 1933. 

Blood Groups and their Distribution in certain Castes in the United Provinces, 
Science and Culture, Vol. 5, pp. 519-22. 

The Blood Groups of the Criminal Tribes of the U.P., Science and Culture, 
1942, VII No. 7. 

Blood Groups of the Doms, Current Science, 1942, No. 4. 



230 REFERENCES 

Majumdar, D.N. Some Aspects of the Economic Life of the Bhoksas and Tharus of Naini 
Tal Tarai, Jubilee Vol. Anthropological Society, Bombay, 1937. 
Tribal Cultures and Acculturation, Presidential Address, Anthropology Section, 
Indian Science Congress, 1939. 

The Relationships of Austric-Speaking Tribes of India with special reference to 
the Measurements of the Hos and Saoras, Proc. Indian Academy of Sciences, 
Vol. VII, No. I January, 1938. 
A Tribe in Transition, (1937). 

Mitra, R. L. Rg. Vedic India, 2 Vols. 

Morant, G. M. A Contribution to the Physical Anthropology of the Swat and Hunza 
Valleys based on Records Collected by Sir Aurel Stein, J. R. A.I., Vol. LXVI, 
January-June, 1936. 

Morant, G. M. The Use of Statistical Methods in the Investigation of Problems of Classi- 
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Nesfield John, C. (1885). Description of the Manners, Industries and Religion 
of the Tharu and Bhogsa Tribes of Upper India. 

North-West Provinces Gazetteer. 

Pannalal, Dr. The Khasa Kinship System, Indian Antiquary, 1911. 

Penal Reformer, Vol. II. 

Risley Peoples of India : Tribes and Castes of Bengal. 

Roy, S. C. The Oraons. 

Sir William Crooke Tribes and Castes of the N. Western Provinces and Oudh 189K 

Sherring : Hindu Tribes and Castes, Vol. I. 

Wiener, A. S. Blood Groups and Blood Transfusion 1939. 

Wyman, C. L. and Boyd, W. C. Human Blood Groups and Anthropology, Amcr 
Anthropologist 37, 



INDEX 



A. 

Aboriginal Indebtedness . . 
Abortion, causes and consequences . 
Adaptability, Positive and Negative 

Factors of 
Adoption 

Adultery .. .. 59, 2( 

Agharias 

Agriculture, evolution of . . 
Agricultural Practices 
Agriculture, Primitive Forms 
Ak haras 
Angam 

Angami Nagas 
Anthropometric data for the Criminal 

Tribes .. .. U 

Anthropometric data for the Khasas 114, 181 
Anthropometric data for the Korwas . . 2, 3 
Anthropometric data for the Tharus . , 
Apna Par ay a 

Artisan classes in the hills 
Arya Samaj 

Assimilation, Extent of . . 
Atkinson, E.T, 
Avunculate . . 
B. 

Badkahi 

Baiga . . 22, 23, 24, 25, 39, 27, 46, 58 

Bastar 

Barrenness, causes 
Basketry 
Bauris 
Bedwart 

Beliefs about Floods 
Belief in Transmigration . . 
Beriyas 

Bhagat ..27,28,29,30,47 

Bhats 

Bharara .. ,.70,8! 

Bhatus .. - 185 

Bhayari 
JJhoksas 



Page 




Page 




Bhuiyas 


1 


11 


Biradari 


35, 100 


46 


Black magic 


.. 24 




Blood Groups of Korwas . . 


3 


16, 17 


Tharus 


.. 75 


180 


?> jj ,, Khasas 


113, 117 


,202 


j? jj J} Doms 


188, 194 


37 


,, ,, Karwals 


.. 188 


221 


Bhatus 


.. 188 


222 


Bonga 


.. 62 


18 


Bride Price . . 


.,54,91 


17 


C. 




39 


Caldwcll, Dr. ' . . 


.. 193 


3 


Casual Migrations 


,. 158 




Ckala Ceremony 


.. 105 


, 187 


Charnars . . . . 1 , 68 


, 75, 143 


1, 181 


Ghenchus 


3 


2,3 


Chaapar bands . . 


.. 185 


76 


Chftopati 


.. 129 


100 


Cliota Nagpur 


4 


137 


Churail 


.. 48 


89 


Chutkata 


.. 92 


15 


Cheros 


1,27,61 


65 


Cortical and Subcortical Beliefs 


,. 219 


56 


Crime Insurance 


.. 206 




Criminal Panchayat 


.. 200 


101 


Crime Training 


.. 205 


t6, 58 


Crookc, Sir William 1, 65, 72 


, 88, 192 


43 


Cross-Cousin Marriage . . 


.. 56 


59 


Cultural life of the Khasas 


.. 139 


87 


D. 




i, 197 


Dalton Col. 


i 


,222 


Dand Korwas 


.. 33 


8 


Deforestation, effects of . . 


.. 10 


151 


Deogharia 


27,28 


185 


Dhaka rs 


.. 185 


0,47 


Dhan Kutlas . . 


.. 68 


138 


Dheevars 


6 


[, 104 


Dhobis 


1,207 


M95 


Dib Korwas 


., 33 


5,36 


Differential rates of increase of tribal 




66 


population of Dudhi , . 


6 



232 



INDEX 



Page 
Dikhnauri .. .. ..99 

Diseases, how the Korwas face them . . 33 
Divination, Process of 29 

Dixon, R. B. . . . . ..Ill 

Dominance of women among Tharus. . 72 
Doms .. 185,193,205,207 

Dormitories . . , . 40 

Dowry among the Korwas . . 53 

Drake-Brockman, Sergent . . 2 

Dudhi . . 2, 8, 10, 18, 38, 40, 59 

E. 
Elliot, Sir E. M. . . . . 193 

Elwin Verrier . , 54 

Endogamy . . * , . 15 

Export of women . . 1 79 

F. 

Factors of adaptability . . . . 17 

Fauna of Jaunsar Bawar .. 120 

Female Infanticide ,. .. 171 

Fertility of the Khasas . . ,.171 

Fertility of the Korwas . . . . 21 

Festivals of the Khasas . . 156 

Festivals of the Tharus . . . . 109 

Feudalism, survivals of .. ..216 

Fishing among the Tharus . . 79 

Food and food habits of the Khasas . . 135 
Forms of marriage among the Korwas 57 
Fraternal jealousy . . . . 160 

Functional fatherhood . . ... 158 

G. 

Gonda Bajia . . , . . . 5, 7 

Gond .. .. 41,54,209 

Gorakhpur Settlement . . . . 192 

Gotul Institution . . . . 209 

Grammar of Dravidian Languages .. 193 
Guha,B. S. .. .. ..Ill 

H. 

Habura .. .. ..187 

Head, Sir Henry .. ..223 

Hodson,T. C. .. ..148 

Hos .. .. ..36 

Hawaiians . , . . 26 

Human sacrifice , . , . 223 



Pag* 

HuttonJ. H... .. ,,148 

Hybridisation. . . . 16 

Hypergamy . . . . 1 74 
I. 

Indigenous ornaments . . 43 

j. 

Jashpur . . . . . . 4 

Jhum cultivation . . . . 7 

Jhumka . . .. ..129 

Joint Family, sanction for Polyandry. . 226 

Joyce, T. A. .. .. ..Ill 

K. 

Kali, worship of . . . . 226 

Kanets .. .. 138,175 

Kanjars . . 185, 187, 189, 199, 205 

Karma .. 44,51,58,64,109 

Karwals . . . . 195, 199 

Kharwars . , , , 1, 37, 44 

Khonds .. .. ..222 

Kinship terms of the Khasas . . 1 78 

Knowles, Rev. . . 65, 72 

Koiries .. .. 1, 11, 185, 196 

Kols .. .. 1 

Kolhan .. .. ..35 

Konyak Nagas . . . . 3 

Kolis .. .. 112,113 

Koltas .. 112,113,175,179 

Koltas, their indebtedness . . 220 

Khsatriya races .. ..110 

Kukis .. .. ..210 

Kunbis .. .. 1,11,185 

Kumhars . . . . . , 1 

Kundpan . . . w 26 

Kutumyaf . . . . 35 

Latitude of sex liberty .. ,.174 

Land Tax in Simla states. . .. 131 

Laws of Inheritance among the 

Khasas .. .. 144, 176 

Levirate . . . . 56 

Lohasur Devi . . 60 

Lushei . . . . . . 3 

Loss of Faith in Tribal Gods . . 63 

Lowie,R. H,.. .. ..149 



IttDfcX 



233 



M. 

Macfarlane,E. W. E. .. 

Maghc Festival 

Magic of Tharu women . . 

Ma jh wars 

i\fajpatia 

Maladaplation, Causes of 

Malaria and Blood Groups 

Mana 

Maria 

Marital code of the Kunjars 

Marriage by capture 

Masked dances of the Khasas 

Mahasu 

Maternal une.les, Impoitancc of 

Malriarrhal Matrix 

Mulriarchal Sociely 

Mcnarchc 

Mccra Moallems 

Midnight worship 

Mimic Dano.-s 

Mixed Marriages, cflucis of 

Mochis 

Mvighiyas 

Moranl, G. M. 

Muker jce, J. G. 

Mundas 

N. 

Negies 

Nesfield,J. N. 

Nevill, M. R. . . 

Numerical strength of the Korwas 

Numerical strength of the 'I'liurus 

O. 

Obligations of Khasa marital life 

Occupations of the Kanj.irs 

Ojka 

Oraons 

Ornaments of the Korwas 

P. 

Palamau 

Fanyans 

Parhiya Korwas 



Page 




Page 




Palel 


.. 197 


3 


Patterns of Tribal Culture 


.. 218 


. . 222 


Patwari 


.. 35 


..95,96 


Physical features of the Korwas 


.. 1,2 


8, 37, 44 


Physiognomy of the Tharus 


.. 71 


.. 97 


Pradhan . . 37, 45, 88 


, 90, 102 


.. 16 


Pregnancy Kites of the Korwas 


.. 45 


7.?, 75 


Privileges of the Tharu women 


.. 71 


.. 02 


Properly, Concept ion among the 




.. 43 


Tharus 


.. 69 


.. 191 


Properly, women's share, . . 


.. 70 


. . 53 


Pollution 


. . 50 


.. 140 


Polyandry, Causes of . . 1 15, 


172,226 


151,221 


Polyandrous, Marriages . . 


.. 105 


.. 177 


Polyandnms Family 


.. 158 


.. 177 


Position of women among t!i._- 




53 


Tharus . . . . 69 


,77,214 


54 


Pottery of iho Tharus 


. . 84 


. . 185 


Pulwa 


5 


n:;, 226 


R. 




181 






115 


Raja Ghandul 


01,03 




Raja of Kumaon 


. . GG 


185 


list! Marriage . . 173, 


179,227 


111 


Registered Criminals 


.. 186 


73 


Religion of ilur Khasas 


.. 151 


.212,219 


Religion of Tharus 
Risky, Sir II. H. . . 07 


. . 109 
, 72, 193 


138 


Ringal Industry 


.. 132 


(v"> 


Rules of Hospitality 


. . 103 


. . jj 


Rules regarding Intermarriage 


.. 175 


. . 65, 73 






5 


S, 




. . 05 


tiagai 


.. 57 




Sahukar 


19 


.. 217 


Sarguja 


3 ; 4, 18 


. . 191 


Sansiyas 


187, 206 


. . 23 


Satias 


195, 196 


.. 1,78 ( 


Sayan a .. .. 1H, 


177,215 


. . 44 


Seasonal Calendar of the Tharus 


.. 85 




Sex Disparity injaunsar Bawar 


.. 170 


3 


Sexual License among the Baurias 


.. 198 


3 


Sex Ratio among the Korwas 


.. 53 


., 33 


Singh, Thakur Surat 


.. 179 



234 



INDEX 



Page 

Social Disorganisation . . 32 

Social structure of the Khasas . . 1 36 

Social vigilance . . 225, 227 

Sorcery and witchcraft . . . . 81 

Sorrorale . . . . 56 

Spirit possession . . . . 226 

Stein, Sir Aurel . . . . Ill 

Status of women . . 93 

Stott, Col. .. .. ..73 

T. 

Taboos .. .. 45,47,221 

Tattoo marks . . 42, 43, 126 
Territorial Organisation in Jaunsar 

Bawar . . . . 141 

Thakurs . . . . . . 1 

Tharu, origin of the name . . 67 

Tharu, Rajput Origin . . 68 
Thokdar, Political Importance of 141, 177, 215 

Toda Custom .. .. ..149 

Topography of Dudhi . . . . 5 

Traffic in women . . 179 



Tribal adjustment, Methods of 

Tribes and Castes of Dudhi 

Tribal Demography 

Tribal Economy 

Tribal Indebtedness 

Tribal offences among the Korwas 



PAge 

212 

1 

6 

209 

9 

37 



Tribal organisation among the Korwas 33 

Turner, A. C. . . 65 

V, 

Vaishnava Influence . . 42 

Vagrant Tribes . . . . 188 

Vigilance as a general biological 

function . , . . . . 223 

Vigilance, Heirarchy of . . . . 224 

Village Dormitory . . 213 

Village Site . . . . 40 
W. 

Witchcraft . . . . 95 

Witch doctor . . . . 156 
Y. 

Talra of the Oraons . . ..222 



BT THE SAME AUTHOR. 
A Tribe In Transition. 

Longmans Green & Co. 

Extracts from the Reviews. 

Prof. J.C. Fliigel, Department of Psychology, University College, 
London. 

"Dr. Majumdar has undoubtedly produced a fascinating study 
of the impact of a complex and partly industrialised civilisation 
upon a more primitive form of culture. Such a study is of the 
greatest theoretical interest to the anthropologist, sociologist and 
social psychologist and of the greatest practical importance to 
administrators in districts where such a clash of cultures is actually 
in progress. Only by an understanding of the facts gathered and 
interpreted by an impartial investigator, such as Dr. Majumdar 
shows himself to be, can we hope to deal satisfactorily with the 
delicate problems presented by the process of social transition in 
India, or for that matter in any other part of the world." 

"The reader can be recommended to Dr. Majumdar's A 
Tribe In Transition for its extreme interest psychologically and for 
the light it throws on Britain's competence as a colonial power" 
The Mew Statesman and Nation. 

"This book is in several respects a remarkable one, and full 
of interest to those who like to have something more than merely 
superficial knowledge about the primitive races of mankind.*** 
Do not let the reader be put off by scientific phraseology such as 
'cultuie pattern 5 and 'methodology' at the outset. Interest will 
deepen as he goes on, and the pictures of Ho Life take colour and 
shape in his imagination thanks to Professor Majumdar." East 
and West Review. 

"Dr. Majumdar adopts Dr. Ruth Benedict's concept of a 
cultural pattern, and seeks to show how 'the stability of the pattern 
acts as the nominative that selects its objectives, to form one runn- 
ing sentence of culture process.' In plainer terms, they continue 
to live in their old style so far as they can, but makes secondary 



adjustments to new circumstances as these may demand. Indeed, this 
kind of change, namely, by selective evolution rather than by revolu- 
tion from without, would seem to go back a long way in their 
history, since, agriculturists as the Hos must on the whole be 
reckoned to-day, they retain many traces of that true savagery 
which economically defined consists in the vita ferina, the stage of 
hunting and gathering.*** All this and much more is admirably 
set forth by Dr. Majumdar in a way that must delight Mr. Roy, the 
Editor of Man In India, long known as the leading authority on 
this part of the world." Oxford Magazine. 

" The evidence has been carefully weighed and it should prove 
a useful record of the present state of an interesting people." Science 
and Progress. 

ff This work can be heartily commended to the attention of any 
social psychologist who is interested in the effect of the contact of 
differently organised social groups, and who is prepared to make 
his study of their effects a matter of serious concern. It is written 
by a student of anthropology who has thoroughly assimilated the 
view that as an anthropologist it is his business to make a factual 
study of the internal and external relationships of the groups of 
people in whom he is interested and to try to present a picture of 
a living people and of the principles which whether they are formu- 
lated or not govern their changing behaviour * * * The book is 
definitely a good one for a psychologist and will provide him with 
many topics concerning which he could collect for himself material 
from whatever social communities offer themselves to his study." 
British Journal of Psychology > 

" The book is an important contribution to Indian ethnography, 
particularly in its estimate of the impact of Hinduism on the culture 
of the Hos, and marks a rather new departure in Indian ethnogra- 
phical literature. 55 Nature. 

" The book is undoubtedly a valuable contribution to Indian 
ethnographical literature. 55 Man In India. 

<f As a contribution from a new field of study of culture contact, 
this volume is of great interest. 55 Man.